PICK OF THE WEEK: Empire Auriga’s atmospheric black metal arises on ‘Ascending the Solar Throne’

Empire AurigaWe ended last week suggesting you might want to take out some physical and mental aggression due to everything you faced the previous seven days. This week, we’re going in the total opposite direction and urging you to relax and take an adventurous trip into the atmosphere to clear your mind.

A perfect way to do that is by unfurling all your inner madness and floating away with “Ascending the Solar Throne,” the second record from Michigan-based atmospheric black metal unit Empire Auriga. This is their first record in eight long years (though their “Auriga Dying” debut was re-released by Moribund in 2008), and it’s a massive head trip like no other. Yeah, it’s black metal at its base, but you won’t find any brutality, wholesale violence, or evil vocal incantations anywhere on this thing. Instead, you’ll be greeted by whooshing, airy passages, tranquility that hints at seeking deeper meaning, and a trip toward celestial bodies (at least in your mind) as you engage and follow this band along their mission. Mixed into their music is thick, rich ambiance and even industrial notes that make for a greater whole. It’s such a damn interesting record, one to get lost inside of every time you visit.

Empire Auriga coverThis band is comprised of just three shadowy figures–Boethius on vocals, 90000065b on programming, and Gestalt on static. OK, those are pretty non-descript, strange names, but they don’t seem interested in lifting the veil on their private lives or anything else of that nature, and why should they? The fact that there is a dark cloak placed over every other aspect of this band but their music helps you concentrate on the matter at hand, that being the band’s spacey, dream-inducing, mysterious transmissions that could get inside your blood and change your chemical makeup for the better. Or, in simpler terms, it’s just a damn good record that provides endless chances for you to imagine and project on a higher level.

“Prophetic Light” gets the record started with a cosmic gaze, with growls buried deep in the mix but definitely present. The track is both eerie and dreamy, with the song trickling out into distant stardust. “Jubilee Warlord” has a riff that rises out of the fog, and that leads into a charged-up atmosphere where electricity is all around you. There are more growls that are smothered with sound, and the whole thing feels like midday trance music, as you stare out into a sunny landscape and wonder what’s going on past where you are at that moment. It’s slow moving and stunning, and it leads right into “The Solarthrone,” that shimmers and is stung with sinister riffs. The track does more lurking than anything, with some speak-singing breaking the surface, the music making your head heavy with dizzying sounds, and the finish dissipating in eerie lathering. “Waste” has darker, more threatening guitars, swirling and damaged melodies, and darkly melodic trickling, as this instrumental spins its web.

“Planetary Awakening” is wind whipped and invites guitars to light some small fires, with vocals that sound like they’re being delivered on winter winds. The music hangs in the air like a ghost, then all of a sudden, it’s gone. “Are You Worthy of Gold?” has more spoken parts that sound like they’re coming from another dimension, yet those lines are situated behind the music as not to be the central focus. It’s a mystical, stimulating piece that can warm your plasma. “The Foundation of All Human Fears” has strains of Godflesh in its DNA, with noise pulsating, recitation making the track feel trance-like, and noise fizzling. Eventually, chants rise up and begin to feel threatening, but they eventually submit to the frost. Closer “The Last Passage of Azon Grul” bathes in layered keys, echoing noises, and bellowing singing that boils behind the scenes. The warbling gets louder and louder as the song becomes more boisterous, and all of the energies here begin to assert themselves like never before. The power glimmers as the song builds to its conclusion, and it eventually begins to break apart, disintegrate, and disappear into the air.

Empire Auriga won’t inspire you to burn down churches or wreck your car into the side of the building. It’s not that kind of metal, and it doesn’t strive to be. Instead, “Ascending the Solar Throne” gives you a chance to branch out and let the chaos stream from your body and soak into the ground. This band’s music can be a profound experience if you let it, and similar to like-minded bands such as Fyrnask, Lustre, Skogen, or Stilla, they give you a break from the madness but in a way that lets you embrace darkness and perhaps understand it a little better.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.empireauriga.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.moribundcult.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?

For more on the label, go here: http://www.moribundcult.com/2013main.html