Tech Death Thursday: Augury – Illusive Golden Age
Augury is back! Time to prog out with your log out.
- Æpoch (TovH Premiere) has a new song up over at No Clean Singing, and it’s pretty fucking sweet. Lots of groove, and that slight touch of chorus on the lead guitar is awesome. Awakening Inception comes out on April 13th.
- Widow’s Peak also has a new song up at No Clean Singing, and it’s also pretty fucking sweet. They’ve got a proggy brutal death metal kind of thing going on that’s hard to draw comparisons to, but I dig it. Look for Graceless on April 27th.
- We premiered a new Unflesh song the other day, and it’s probably the shreddiest thing you’ll hear all week. If you like your tech fast, then you can’t beat this. Saviors is out on May 25th.
- Everybody left The Faceless. Again. Three things to take away from this: Ken Sorceron and Bryce Butler are returning focus to Abigail Williams (the former also going back to The Accuser), Justin McKinney is full time with The Zenith Passage again (who are basically a far better version of The Faceless anyway), and Michael Keene really needs to stop doing both heroin and music. The former is extremely unhealthy for himself, and the latter is extremely unhealthy for anyone unfortunate enough to hear it.
Augury has returned from a nine-year absence, and it’s about god damn time. Their 2009 album, Fragmentary Evidence, was the consummate progressive death metal album for the time, combining the ever-increasing aggression of their tech death peers with the weird antics of classic acts like Atheist and Cynic. It was an even balance of experimental and listenable; catchy enough to sink its hooks in on first listen while slowly peeling back its many layers on each subsequent return. It set a pretty damn high bar for a followup, and after nearly a decade between releases, one could reasonably expect said followup to be a either a magnum opus or a total flop.
It turns out, however, that not much has changed. Illusive Golden Age feels very much like a natural successor to Fragmentary Evidence; it’s as though each of the band’s constituent members had the Augury portion of their brains stored in a vault somewhere and just reinserted them when the time was right to return. Their sound has been tightened up and refined, but the same elements are all largely in place. That’s not to say they’ve stagnated at all- this is anything but mindless music- just that the way they’ve progressed and how they experiment on this album isn’t anything unexpected based on what they’ve done before. It’s the same, but different.
That probably sounds confusing and/or stupid, but let me try to explain here. When it comes to progressive death metal, Augury is the band. When you’re first listening to them, none of their songs move the way you expect them to, but they still feel natural. Meter and tempo changes happen all over the place, they generally eschew straightforward thirds harmonies in favor of less traditional fourths and sixths whenever they’re not using counterpoint, and polyrhythms across multiple instruments aren’t out of the question either (the opening of “Message Sonore” is a mindfuck if you’re not ready for it). If you’re not already into prog metal, the first listen is going to be incredibly dense, but you’re sure to encounter melodies and riffs that catch your ear. When it all comes together, it’ll draw you into a soundscape of oceanic blue to match its cover art; unpredictable, sometimes punishing, but unmistakably beautiful.
So going between the last two albums, none of those fundamental aspects have changed, but the way they go about incorporating them has. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been listening to them awhile, but the songs on Illusive felt a little more cohesive than past efforts, if a little less experimental. It’s overall less aggressively weird, more melodic, and feels more like a unified piece of work; not surprising, given the thematic focus of lost civilizations. I would have liked to see them get a little bit weirder on this one, but that’s not to say it’s inadequate by any stretch; I particularly love the haunting synth in the middle of “Maritime,” and closing track “Anchorite” is easily one of their best melodic songs to date. At the end of the day, this is Augury being Augury, and you can’t really ask more than that.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the performances here; this is tech death, after all. Dominic Lapointe demonstrates once again why he is the poster child for modern fretless bass playing, meshing the intensity of his Teramobil playing with the creative melodies that were part of Beyond Creation‘s sound. Guitar duo Mathieu Marcotte and Patrick Loisel (also on vocals) are formidable, shredding through riffs with ease and playing off each other in new ways at every turn. Antoine Baril provides an extremely nuanced performance on the kit, particularly impressive given the speeds they hit. Plus, I’m not sure I heard him repeat any beats, subtly modifying them at each repetition. If this is a genre that you come to for the audio spectacle, then you won’t leave disappointed. The only thing you might get hung up on are the dirty sung vocals, which I’ve heard some describe as “piratey.” This didn’t bother me personally, but I could see how it could be off-putting for some.
If you got lost in that word salad, this should be the takeaway: Illusive Golden Age is a great progressive death metal album and a welcome return for Augury. It feels like a natural progression for the band that never gets too wild with its experimentation, despite its complex compositions. You probably won’t get the instant gratification out of it that most tech death provides, but with a little patience, you’ll be in for a rich and rewarding listening experience. If you’re into any type of progressive music, then this is essential listening.
Illusive Golden Age is out Friday, March 30th, via The Artisan Era (also on Bandcamp, if you’re so inclined). You can follow Augury on Facebook; tell them the Toilet says hello. That’s all for now, and until next time,
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