Review Summary: The matrimony of ‘80s thrash and ‘90s black metal.
The ‘90s were a barren decade for thrash metal, give or take. Should some criminally neglected gems (think of Heathen’s Victims of Deception
) be excluded, the genre appeared to be overmined, as opposed to the unexplored and more extreme sounding doom/death/black metal streams and their mixtures. On the other hand, progressive rock and its angrier metal offspring were gradually reinstated at the forefront. The few enduring ‘80s tech thrash outfits (Voivod, Mekong Delta etc.) fled progressively towards the said niche, while the rest of the surviving thrash metal pack migrated to different directions, with mixed results.
For better or for worse, thrash metal had been misplaced by its conjurers and faithful disciples alike. However, two members of the (then) newly established Norwegian death/black metal scene, multi-instrumentalists Carl-Michael Eide (aka Aggressor) and Ole Jørgen Moe (aka Apollyon), thought they could try a different angle with the genre and formed Aura Noir sometime around mid ‘90s. Debut EP Dreams Like Deserts
(1995) set a solid piece of record regarding the matrimony of ‘80s thrash and ‘90s black metal; it was one year later though, that Aura Noir fleshed a more muscled version of their initial plan, with the release of their debut album Black Thrash Attack
In so many words, Aura Noir go back to the not-so-distant past of ‘80s thrash metal (think of Venom/Slayer/early Kreator) and filter it through the aesthetics of Norwegian second-wave black metal. Endorsed by a coarse grained sound production, the said blend is further alloyed to Celtic Frost and (at times) ‘70s heavy rock groove. The rhythm guitars stay close to the speeding rhythm section, with lightning-fast/weird time signature shifts (“Sons of Hades”, “Caged Wrath”) and really addictive mid-tempo segments (“The Pest”, “Black Thrash Attack”) spicing things up. Vocally and lyrically, the much lauded nihilism introduced by Venom and perfected by early ‘90s black metal vocalists, is served complements of both Aggressor and Apollyon.
In terms of instrumental arrangements and vocals, Aggressor and Apollyon have shaped an interesting pact. At the odd-numbered tracks Aggressor handles vocals/strings and Apollyon is drumming, whereas on at even-numbered tracks, the roles are swapped. The differences in the vocal styles are really subtle, but the instrumental polarization grants the album further intrigue. On one end, Apollyon’s staccato riffing is complemented by Aggressor’s frantic but precise/technical drumming. That arrangement leads to somewhat more traditional speed/thrash metal alleys, save the black metal vocals of course. On the other (end), Apollyon’s raw (almost punk) drumming fits perfectly with Aggressor’s "twister" riffs, which bear some of the avant-garde black metal wizardry evidenced in Ved Buens Ende, Mayhem and Thorns.
In a nutshell, Black Thrash Attack
sounds like a split release of two slightly different outfits, with the generated diversity working in favor of the album’s replay value. The quality of the material presented herein, along with the album’s self-explanatory title, signified the birth of a genre that counts 18 years of prolific existence. Well done, really well done.