2016 : Blood Music
Format : CD
From the very beginning I was left flummoxed by Grey Aura’s debut album, Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort. For starters, it’s probably the longest album title I’ve ever seen. It also begins with a rather confusing introduction that sounds like footsteps and a man entering into a crowded room. Hailing from Odijk in the Netherlands, Grey Aura came together in 2010 with the idea of being “…a vessel for immersive musical, literary and visual art.” I know almost nothing of the Dutch language, so delving into the concept of the album was nigh impossible. The concept has however been laid out in plain English by the band as follows:
The album was to deal with the legendary story of Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz (c. 1550 – 1597), who tried finding a northeastern passage to Asia. On his third and final attempt in 1596, Barentsz and his crew got stuck in the ice near the mysterious, desolate island of Novaya Zemlya. The crew was forced to construct a home made of driftwood and parts of their ship in order to survive the harsh Arctic winter.
Having understood this, it’s much easier to approach the album with a lot less prejudice, and nearly eliminates the need to be caught up in pigeonholing the release into specific genres. The rule book is effectively tossed out the window. The music itself is excellent, the tracks vary from the traditional barbarism of Black Metal with a handful of larger more improvised sections. If this were to be labeled strictly as “Black Metal” it would be easily compared to early-mid era Emperor (particularly some of the band’s experimental aspects). The album contains over an hour and a half worth of weaving experimentation that covers a broad range of sound, no doubt a risky endeavor as it makes the album hard to promote to any specific audience. Songs like “Bereneiland” present good renditions of Black Metal, while other tracks like “Tussenspel I – Vorst” boast more a more folkish sound. There are some sections of the album that are spoken word, no doubt for the sake of conveying the album’s story. Unfortunately these will fall a bit flat for those who don’t speak Dutch. I have to say they just didn’t captivate my interest as much as the songs themselves.
The album is so lengthy that it’s actually split into two separate discs (yes, I mean two separate CDs). The second half continues along in the same vein as the first. Earlier tracks on this section like, “Het Behouden Huys,” are fantastic. I actually felt the latter portions sounded a bit heavier and more climactic. Of course proper flow between songs is to be expected on a concept album, and on that point I think that Grey Aura hits the mark. This is an album that requires a bit of your time. With such an intimidating length it can same like a daunting task, but perhaps that’s what this generation needs right now; a few hours to sit and stew upon a piece of art.