Review Summary: Auras continue to play loud and sound polished while embracing some less than exciting metalcore tropes.
Public service announcement: if you appreciate technical, mathy, heavy-ass metalcore and haven’t perused Auras’ back catalogue, then congratulations—you’ve played yourself. Don’t do that. Don’t be daft. Be smart.
That’s my advice about the band’s earlier work. This is a review of Binary Garden, however, the brand new full length from the boys.
There is a lot about Binary Garden that is par for the course: excellent riffing, actually good and interesting djenty djents, stellar production, and another consistent performance from one of metal’s more powerful (and underappreciated) harsh vocalists. In all this, Auras have honored their commitment to delivering a surprisingly identifiable and undeniably high-quality product in a genre that so many love to hate.
Unfortunately, now comes time to talk about some salient changes to the Auras template. It really seems like, just as the sun rises, so too do so many metalcore bands eventually stray from the light (perhaps I should say the dark). I’m talking, of course, about what happens when these bands “mature”. Maturation inevitably means one thing in this context: a push toward simpler song structures and, well, generic (which is not to say unlistenable) clean vocals, features which this album exploits more than any of its predecessors. I can’t help but be a skeptic here: I just don’t think maturation as a band requires or calls for anything like these sorts of changes.
Alright, before I get accused of doing violence to the band's true narrative let me preempt what you, having listened to this record, might be thinking: “the band is not making any claim to having matured. They just wanted to write a different record. They want to sing and djent at the same damn time.”
For all I know, you’re right. Nor should I be all that surprised, since the changes here aren’t entirely unprecedented. We got our first taste for what was to come with the closer “Boundless” off of their 2015 EP, Crestfallen, and further foreshadowing came from cuts like “Stars” off of the band’s previous full-length album, Heliospectrum. I didn't mind these tracks, though I thought they were dwarfed by their more sonically ambitious (and yes, heavier) brethren on their respective releases. Now, however, the transition is more or less complete: Auras have embraced a template for which I harbor very little warmth.
Let me also say that Auras ought to do whatever they want, and that I expect no sympathy for my (lightly) salty take. Surprising as it may sound, I rank Cheetos pretty low on my salty snack tier list and I hate Mountain Dew. I even lift twenty pound weights sometimes. Nevertheless, I have to stand my ground: you will be hard pressed to convince me that Auras hasn't made a move in a more generic, less interesting direction.
Let me reiterate, however, that there’s plenty to dig here and that, in the right mood, my concerns have lay dormant on some listens. Finally, let me shill for the band as best I can given the view I've taken on this record: if you’re a glutton for metalcore tropes mixed with actual musical acumen, this is likely to be your best bet for 2019. Auras has always been a cut above most of their contemporaries, and the same is probably true now, even if Binary Garden has slightly altered my sense of who their contemporaries are.