The Porcelain Throne: Aurora (Denmark)
Welcome back to The Porcelain Throne! This time around, we have Jimmy McNulty to detail out the sadly short career of a sweet melodic death metal band. I am sure we all had bands like this one back in our early days of discovering music. They were hard to find, but they sounded better than many massively popular bands in their genre, so they were surely going to be the next big thing! Unfortunately fame is hard to find for some talented bands, but The Porcelain Throne is here for you to shout your under-appreciated knowledge to the best audience in metal. Send your ideas and articles to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Hey flushers! Jimmy McNulty here, happily contributing to YourLogicIsFlushed’s Porcelain Throne series. What follows are a few reasons I wanted to share Aurora with you:
1. Information about Aurora is almost impossible to find (poor fellas don’t have a single review on Metal-Archives.com).
2. They disbanded during a time when melodic death metal wasn’t that big, but could probably survive now if they were still a band.
3. I enjoy death metal today because of them. They were a huge gateway band for me.
The year is somewhere around 2003. A young James McNulty is in college, enjoying the high-speed internet that was only found in dorm rooms at the time. “What’s this thing, Napster? You mean I can obtain free music AND piss off the lousy drummer from Metallica? Count me in.” At that time I had an album or two from bands like Strapping Young Lad and The Haunted (whom I thought were death metal back then). Somehow I discovered Aurora, exactly how I cannot recollect, as there were no metal blogs at the time. I had a BITCH of a time finding music by them. Napster would return a couple of search results with maybe three seeders. Even now the first track off their first full-length, “Aurora Borealis” is damn near un-google-able. I would watch a song sit idly in my queue for up to a week, but suddenly it would be filled within 10 minutes! (That’s right folks, downloading single songs at a time, to varying degrees of quality). I would actually rejoice upon the completion of a full Aurora album!
Driving around campus blasting a recorded CD-R of Aurora, I knew there was something special going on there. The guitarists were playing fluid riffs at varying tempos and technical, yet melodic solos. The drummer? I don’t know how to explain it, but I was hearing fills and tempo changes that I’d never heard before. This was a talented group of metal musicians, impressive to the ears of myself and my friends.
Eos is heavy enough to be considered death metal, yet melodic enough to catch someone’s ears who isn’t yet sold on OSDM bands like Cannibal Corpse. The first half of the album has some odd melodic vocal hooks that I think are attributable to the language barrier (including some bizarre female vox on “Ethereal Goddess” and “Elyzium”). Still, they bring the heat with riffs and melodic passages throughout. The second half of the album sees the band downing a few 5-Hour Energy Drinks and taking it easy on the vocals, but ramping up the speed of the overall instrumentation.
“Black Tears” is a mostly instrumental song that I didn’t quite love at first listen, but now is in my top 10 metal songs of all time. Listen to those time changes! And the guitar solo is simply and utterly brilliant.
The last song on the album, “Childhood Memories”, is a slow burner with an immensely memorable vocal pattern towards the end. It would brings tears to my eyes if I weren’t such a God-damned man! I’m not a lyrics bro, but I do appreciate the end:
“and I remember you always asked me, ‘why can’t we fly?’ At the time… I didn’t have the answer.” Then the final, raspy screaming of “Goodbye… CRUEL WORLD!”
Sadiam EP (1999)
I can’t remember who, but someone claimed that this marked their trajectory towards more hard-rock oriented metal. It’s good, but the only song that approaches the excellence of Eos is “Home”, however I’m not going to waste any real estate with a song from the EP. It has a little more head-banging, upbeat tempos and hooks, and less of a sense of melancholy than Eos.
Okay, so you have one insanely impressive debut album that didn’t really grab the metalsphere’s attention… what next? How about adding progressive elements? Check. Extend song lengths? Check. I can tell they worked hard to become the next name in heavy metal, and this kind of move worked for some modern bands like Mastodon and Machine Head, but not for poor Aurora. The title track “Devotion” is 10:52 in length and has around four minutes of ambience/doom in the middle, reminiscent of a longer Pink Floyd song (I.E. “Animals”), before kicking back into breakneck speed for the final two minutes. “Slow Down”, the song they previewed prior to the album’s release, is phenomenal (I tried very hard to find a stream) and features a KILLER guitar solo featuring electric and acoustic playing together. The final track “You” is 11:44 of ambient garbage with one minute of metal. Skip it.
“Catharsis” is the best song that Aurora ever composed. Everything about it is pure perfection. (I submitted this for Riff of the Week, guitar solo edition)
Dead Electric Nightmares (2002)
AKA: nail in the coffin. With their Sadiam EP, they included a little hard rock to try to gain new fans and failed. With Devotion, they went progressive and failed. Come 2002, with Dead Electric Nightmares, they had little to nothing to lose and injected a heavy dosage of hard rock and hooks. It’s not a bad album by any means, but it is by far their least good album. There are several whiffs to be found here, but it also contains a 100% unflushable track in “New God Rising”, and sure enough I can’t find a good YouTube stream but here it is on GrooveShark (whatever the fuck that is):
It is THE MOST death metal track they ever released, with rapid-fire double bass drumming and riffs as heavy as any they’ve written. Having said that, there are so many mediocre songs on the album that it’s difficult to listen to straight through. “Watching Falling Breathing” is ambient/wacky filler, “Jack” is a goofy fucking pop song with distorted guitars, and “Chains of God” is a laughable swansong to end a fantastic band’s career. I highly recommend leaving on the great note of “New God Rising”, so as not to let the band’s missteps guide you.
Aurora was a band with two strikes against them right out the door: competing with bands with the same name, and arriving at a time when melodic death metal wasn’t big. I am truly sympathetic that they couldn’t make it, and I’m sure this fate is suffered by many other talented bands.
I want to thank Jimmy for this fantastic article, and encourage the rest of you to send those bands that have a special place in your heart to email@example.com, so they too can sit upon the throne.