At its best, creative expression is confrontation. Phrases like “thought-provoking” are often bandied about, but the strongest literature, cinema, painting and most certainly music puts forward a considered artistic point of view with unapologetic force. There’s a place for safe and saccharine and the comfort provided by familiarity, but the magic that really moves human beings, that stirs the soul, that’s the stuff that is always challenging.
AURAS aspire to that challenging progressive ideal. They aren’t satisfied by the mundane. They don’t make challenging music for its own sake. The goal is to inspire, push upward and persevere. The Canadian quartet wears the word “progressive” like a badge of honor, each of them fully dedicated to the power of pushing the envelope.
The progressive groove metal of AURAS works within a framework that serves as familiar entry point to those whose lifestyle is devoted to the iconic stop/start blueprint of Meshuggah, the generational paradigm shift of Periphery, the likeminded mathematical wizardry of label mates The Contortionist, and the steady meditative metal grooves of Northlane, Veil Of Maya, and Volumes. AURAS have defined their own unique place within the musical storm, a specific weather event enveloping the majesty of metal’s pioneers, the aggressive bark of thrash, the oppressive weight of death metal, all swirling in a cosmic fog imbued with the hypnotic groove-oriented pulse of Tool.
AURAS consist of vocalist Eric Almeida, guitarist/vocalist Josh Ligaya, guitarist Aaron Hallman, and drummer Nathan Bulla. They released Panacea, their debut 7-track EP, in January 2013 (just a few years after forming) and followed it with the track “Adverse Condition,” demonstrating a boundary pushing attitude and bottom-heavy blast similar in mindset to Tesseract, Disperse and the band’s one-time tour mates, Ever Forthright.
In Spring 2015, AURAS dropped the 5-song Crestfallen EP on Good Fight / eOne, which was produced and mixed by Jordan Valeriote (Silverstein, Neck Deep, Structures). It hit #1 on the iTunes Metal charts and was part of Spotify’s Best New Metal playlist.
Forget Nickelback and Justin Bieber: the United States’ neighbor to the North, Canada, blessed the world with Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame inductees RUSH, prog-metal pioneers Voivod, metalcore madmen Protest The Hero, and death metal stalwarts Gorguts and Kataklysm. Yes, AURAS come from a national soil rich with heavy music innovation.
HELIOSPECTRUM is the first full-length offering from the Canadian upstarts, produced by Anthony Calabretta (Stereos, Abandon All Ships), with engineering/editing by Cameron McLellan (Protest The Hero, Intervals). It’s the inevitable culmination of years spent perfecting their sonic alchemy in basements, clubs, theaters and rehearsal rooms, honing a juxtaposition of unrelenting heaviness, complex riffery and ambiance.
The band’s debut full-length is also the result of disciplined dedication and focused collaboration. “Chronos Fear” showcases the relentless riffing and intricate rhythms AURAS bring to the table, sublimely enhanced by nuanced modulation and craft. Lyrically, “Chronos Fear” meditates on the unpredictability of time and future events. It’s thematically not unlike the band’s music, which includes curveballs that are integral to their sound. Hold onto the grooves, because the musical ground will always move.
“Dream Elixir” broadens the scope of the band’s sound into new territory, introducing clean singing, buoyed by melodicism and ambitious hooks. “Infinite Influence” bridges the gap between crushing heaviness, mind-melting technical proficiency, and quiet/loud dynamics, complete with a guest solo courtesy of Intervals guitarist Aaron Marshall. The vocals explore AURAS lowest depths at one point. The song’s ending redefines heavy.
Speaking of endings, “Solar Pulse” closes the album, a thematically driven opus with all of the existential/scientific/spiritualism the title would suggest and this particular neighborhood of the heavy metal genre revels in so magnificently. At over six minutes, it’s the longest AURAS composition thus far, complete with guest work from McLellan.
There is no ending on the horizon for AURAS. Heavy metal has replicated, separated, and diversified since its inception. AURAS take their place amongst the 7-string-axe-wielding poly-metric groove community, eager to shred the envelope further as they evolve, with only the very cosmos itself as the limit to their expanding sonic power.