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There’s little in the way of contesting that Waldorf, Maryland death/black metal formation Aurora Borealis has been experiencing an upward career trajectory ever since “Time, Unveiled” in 2002. While more melodically inclined in their earlier years 2006’s “Relinquish” heralded a far more aggressive approach to the sound the band had perfected in the years prior. The induction of Mark Green in 2011 was instrumental in taking Aurora Borealis to the next level and he is now the longest serving skinsman since his illustrious predecessors Tony Laureano (who went on to Angelcorpse and Nile) and Derek Roddy. “Apokalupsis” is the culmination of the evolution that commenced with “Relinquish”. By and large “Apokalupsis” is the most abrasive and all-out combative Aurora Borealis has sounded to date. Needless to say “Apokalupsis” fits seamlessly into Aurora Borealis’ contemporary repertoire.

It’s unbelievable enough that Aurora Borealis is the vision of just one man: producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist/lyricist Ron Vento. Assisting Vento are long-time contributors Jason Ian-Vaughn Eckert on bass guitar and drummer Mark Green. Ian-Vaughn Eckert is a consummate professional that can weave flowing funky licks like Mike Poggione (Monstrosity), Jeroen Paul Thesseling or Chris Richards (ex-Suffocation) if given the place and time, but "Apokalupsis" is too singular in its objective to bludgeon to allow him said space. In an ideal world Mark Green would have been presented bigger opportunities at this point in his tenure with the band. For hitherto unexplained reasons this hasn’t occured yet and Aurora Borealis will continue to reap the benefits of his stellar talent until the inevitable bigger names come calling. Green has the makings of a new star in extreme metal drumming and undoubtedly he’s destined to follow in the footsteps of Laureano, Roddy, and Yeung who all went to become institutions in their own right.

Lyrically Aurora Borealis has always been putting many of their contemporaries to shame. Whereas their earlier work dealt with ancient history, mythology and the darker aspects of foreign cultures, “Apokalupsis” expands upon the science fiction concepts from “Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything” and its companion piece “Worldshapers”. It delves into the theory of Old Earth Creationism and is very much a retelling of the Bible from the perspective of alien entities. As God casted out all rebellious angels he assigned each to a specific star. Each of these stars is custodian to a demon and each demon is trying to break free from captivity to manipulate mankind into their greatest deception. Each demon disguises itself to reach mankind, be it in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and the serpent or as aliens guiding great rulers (pharaohs, kings, presidents, et al) by their visitations on Earth at various points in recorded history and facilitating the creation of tribal god images and religions. Once these tools are in place they continue the deception to reach their ultimate objective, the Apocalypse or the End Times.

Aurora Borealis has chosen to go in the opposite direction of a band like Monstrosity. Whereas that band went for a more deliberately paced, highly stylized and more melodic iteration of their vintage Florida death metal sound; Aurora Borealis has adopted a more traditional, conventionally percussive direction. Virtually all of trio’s more atmospheric enhancements have been excised on “Apokalupsis”. That is not necessarily to their detriment as it cements that Aurora Borealis can just as easy compete with the likes of Malevolent Creation or Nile as with more progressive-minded outfits as, say, an Obscura or bands of similar persuasion. In fact “Apokalupsis” is probably Aurora Borealis’ least adventurous recording to date in that regard. There are perhaps more than a few shades of “Relinquish” to be found here and the more epic wanderings of “Praise the Archaic Lights Embrace “ and “Northern Lights” are conspicuously absent. The change is not exactly surprising since “Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything” provided plenty of hints in that direction that “Worldshapers” went on to consolidate. Those hoping for another ‘Slave to the Grave’ will be left with their hunger but Vento and his Aurora Borealis never disappoint, and they don’t do here either.

“Apokalupsis” is thoroughly traditional. Moreso than any of Vento’s past ventures with his band and it's significant for exactly that reason. This is the best record that Malevolent Creation never released. It easily surpasses Nile’s “Annihilation Of the Wicked” in sheer brute force and makes Morbid Angel’s recent return-to-form sound rather limp and flaccid in comparison. Personally we are more inclined towards Aurora Borealis’ more epic offerings but there’s no contesting that “Apokalupsis” does exactly what it promises. This is by far the Maryland trio’s most apocalyptic opus to date and befitting of the time and title it absolutely refuses to take any prisoners or do any concessions. Dying Fetus might be Maryland’s most popular export but Aurora Borealis have proven to be an underground royalty in their own right. For 28 years and counting Aurora Borealis has proven to be the most underrated US death metal band. Few bands can match Vento’s consistency, work ethic and instrumental proficiency. It remains a question for the ages why his Nightsky Studio facility isn’t more popular with bigger and smaller metal bands alike. Even at their least adventurous Aurora Borealis is leagues better than whatever is popular in the underground right now. It’s about time people start paying some attention to Aurora Borealis lest they be ravaged...



The second and only widely available Divine Rapture album is the record Morbid Angel should have released when “Heretic” hit the market in 2003. While imitating Morbid Angel had been a practice dating as far back as the 90s, in the early 2000s it came to a peak with bands as Lost Soul, Myrkskog and Divine Rapture all releasing albums that were, musically and spiritually, inspired by the once relevant Tampa, Florida masters. One of the more poignant examples of this was “The Burning Passion” by Pennsylvanian combo Divine Rapture, who combined “Blessed Are the Sick” writing with “Domination” like production values. The student had become the master, it is unfortunate that the band would dissolve and its members scatter to various other and different bands.

The album starts off with the guitar noodling of the intro ‘The Kindling’, before giving way to the uniformly ungentle ‘Your Time Has Come’. The track forms the template of the material present on the album. The obvious influence is Morbid Angel, but the “Blessed Are the Sick” and “Covenant” riffs are far more mechanical and structurally denser compared to the original thing, they also are played at “Black Force Domain” era Krisiun speed, as is the album. A direct comparison can be made to UK death metal duo Mithras, which is quite similar in writing – and playing style, but are lyrically much different than this Pennsylvania outfit. The commonalities are hard to deny, however. The lyrics are far more personal, introspective and based in the internal world than Morbid Angel’s tirades about the Sumerian pantheon, The Ancient Ones and the Roman Empire. Only ‘Affliction Of Faith’ and ‘No Future, No Past’ both share superficial similarities with Morbid Angel’s usual anti-religious lyrics, although Divine Rapture clearly approaches them from a more personal – and direct perspective.

Half of the material present was re-recorded from the band’s independently released 2001 promo along with a cut from the band’s self-titled album from 1999. The renditions here are superior in every way. Notable is that the intro ‘The Kindling’, the interlude ‘The Deifying, The Sorrow, The Awakening’ and the outro ‘The Smothering’ are closer related to symfo – and more keyboard oriented variations of pagan – and Viking metal than the Florida death metal of Morbid Angel. Their inclusion isn’t really puzzling, as Morbid Angel is prone to including numerous instrumental interludes on its albums, but their stylistic deviation from the main portion of the album is bewildering and sometimes distracting. The new tracks ‘Your Time Has Come’, ‘Severed’, ‘Funeral Mist’ and ‘No Future, No Past’ are compositionally more ambitious, faster and more technical than the re-recorded early material, although all tracks are far from original as they conform to all the tropes and genre conventions associated with this type of mammoth death metal.

Recorded by Ron Vento (Aurora Borealis) at Nightsky Studios in Waldorf, Maryland Divine Rapture is graced with a thick but clear guitar tone that retains enough crunch without sacrificing anything of its concrete heaviness. The drums sound powerful enough, and while the kickdrums could have been more meatier, they are not clicky and of the “typewriter” variety as many bands of the modern era. The bass guitar isn’t really heard much, although the production overall is thick and heavy, so at least its present. A good deal of attention was given to the esoteric solos and the synthesizers. Overall, it is just below “Domination” in terms of production work. Everything is balanced expertly. The digitally rendered artwork by Daniel Allanic fits with the band’s overall theme, and the photograpy is a bit goofy with the band standing in flames, everyone looking mean and grumpy.

A glance at the line-up reveals all that needs to be said. The band consists of several mid to high-profile figures. Mike Hrubovcak would go to front both Monstrosity and Vile while being an acclaimed digital artist on the side. J.J. Hrubovcak would go to join Hate Eternal, Babak Davodian is Cannibal Corpse’s resident live sound engineer. Ryan Moll fronts the thrash metal band Rumpelstiltskin Grinder. Considering the pedigree of these members (and their various other commitments) it was perhaps for the best that Divine Rapture only released this sole album. Quality, after all, is far more important than quantity, which is something that few bands seem to understand in this day and age.

“The Burning Passion” was released in 2003, the same year that Morbid Angel released the uniformly disappointing, if not outright terrible, “Heretic” through Earache Records. Everything that that album should have been is present here in spades and without the excess fat that usually litters Morbid Angel albums. In Poland Lost Soul was steadily making its rise out of the underground and Behemoth was an established entity at this point, Mithras released “Worlds Beyond the Veil” the same year. Nile had released “In Their Darkened Shrines” the year before. Just to illustrate that bands across the US and Europe were releasing numerous albums that were plainly better than the band everybody supposedly looked up to in reverence and respect. Divine Rapture was one of these bands, and it serves as a curious reminder never to take the established brands or what releases they put out for granted, or without critical thought and examination.