You want some good symphonic death metal? You got it, but with a fair side of nothing new on the metal end.

Release date: November 10, 2023 | The Artisan Era | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify

I was fairly generous with my assessment of The Ritual Aura’s previous record, Velothi. This is due in no small part to my excitement at the time with it. Today, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be quite as generous, even though my impression would technically remain in that ballpark. Presently I don’t have particularly wild expectations from metal in general, even though I still very much enjoy the genre as a whole. Despite that, I still get disappointed often and sure, that’s on me, but can you blame a man for trying to hold art to a high standard? Well, I mean, you can, but that’s not the point. Case in point, I’m not exactly disappointed with Heresiarch, but I’m not entirely satisfied either. I expected a little more from The Ritual Aura, especially since it’s been about four years since their last record.

Death metal really likes to emphasize brutality and being scary and whatnot, doesn’t it? Sometimes it pans out, other times it just feels like a cheap Halloween mask. In the process, The Ritual Aura sort of manage both across Heresiarch, to me at least. For example, “The New Plague” just feels like it doesn’t land in terms of mood. It kind of gives off that vibe that it looks frightening but at its core, it’s mushy and without much substance, much like Ghost. On the other hand, though, you have “In the Warmth of Its Glow We Thrived” which, aside from being an absolute banger, hits all the way home with the heavy, groovy riffs, lots of variety, some well-timed, clever orchestrations, and neatly phrased dramatic impact.

Heresiarch struggles with the performance of a balancing act between these extremes. It would have made more sense if these were both well made, disparate ends, united for the sake of contrast, however, one of these doesn’t deliver. I don’t think it’s for a lack of trying either: if anything, the band may have tried too hard. It’s perfectly fine to make a short album. I would much rather listen to a dense and packed-to-the-brim half hour record than a more lackluster, almost hour-long affair.

As a band you have to be willing to ditch the subpar ideas, don’t pad the runtime, take a few more risks, and you’ll have a better deal in the end. I would have added that an intention needs to be crystal clear, but the band nailed that down to a T, so kudos for that.

The album definitely showcases The Ritual Aura stepping forward in the right direction, albeit not as much as I would’ve expected. The band does have a very interesting sound signature, particularly because it stays firmly in the orchestral metal/symphonic metal realm while also remaining in progressive tech/brutal death metal as well, while not sounding anything like any of their contemporaries, i.e. Fleshgod Apocalypse, SepticFlesh, Carach Angren, and others. It’s obvious that this is particularly getting more mature on Heresiarch, with plenty of room to bloom. I like this a lot and I hope it gets the chance it deserves at fulfilling itself to its fullest potential.

I am really tired of this style of production, though. This sterile, hermetic, over-compressed, one-dimensional cramming of noisy things together doesn’t make things brutal. It just makes things lifeless, drab, and tiresome. The solely orchestral parts, though, sound really good; it’s the more death metal parts that I have this issue with. I understand that for a long time this was the staple in terms of style, but it’s time to retire it. Metal albums can sound good and there are good sound engineers out there, let’s start making that the norm, or at least a norm. Otherwise, Heresiarch is a solid record, from a band with heavy potential; go check it out.

Robert Miklos

Robert Miklos

What can I say? I love slapping keys and listening to squiggly air.

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