Review Summary: When impressive ambition outweighs the actual result.Velothi
doesn’t start with the play button. Rather, it begins by witnessing the associated duration: twenty-nine minutes and forty-five seconds. Three years prior, The Ritual Aura went beyond (perhaps too far beyond) the one-hour marker, and now they’ve taken the axiomatic meat of their sound and liberally trimmed the fat. Because as engaging and diverse as Taether
could be during its massive runtime, it possessed too few ideas to fill too big a space; anything that was once considered novel was thoroughly stretched thin until it bore no substance. That comparatively miniscule amount comes across as a definitive statement of determination by the Australian collective to focus themselves—at least, such is the hope. Once that small arrow is clicked, expectations become gradually subverted. Rather than having to contend with a vast blank canvas, The Ritual Aura have limited themselves to essentially the size of a Post-It note. Thus, while good ideas are uncovered in droves, they are present in such overabundance that they suffocate each other and are never allowed to properly develop. Worse still are those that seem less like creative implementations and more so just something shoehorned in to add that ‘hey, it’s progressive!’ element. The end result sounds as though the band threw practically everything in their arsenal at a wall and crossed their fingers. Taking up such an inventive project is a commendable attempt akin to hoisting an incredible weight—but the group opted to do so without anyone to spot them or apply any checks.
Unceremoniously crammed into the brief experience are heaps of orchestral samples, piano passages, an erhu, a flute, a harp, random female singing, guest guitar solos indistinguishable from regular solos, a violin and a viola—the list goes on. Oddly enough, because these factors are utilized so frequently and in a strangely uniform manner, the record flows predictably and does precious little to distinguish tracks from each other. Considering how Velothi
is organized into two suites containing four songs apiece, this is absolutely an intentional maneuver; in doing so, however, The Ritual Aura fails to capitalize on the fresh perspectives they bring to the table, or they abuse those characteristics to the point where their ripe quality promptly rots. The clean vocals that once populated Taether
are decreased in presence; a shining moment comes in “Psijic | CHIM,” but it doesn’t last long and simply devolves into standard technical riffs, which themselves act only as bridges to homogenized soloing. The erhu that caps off the track’s conclusion emits a captivating atmosphere with its unique tone, yet it is heard only for a brief portion and is immediately followed by the female singing performance—the only time they appear on the album. The song is a stunning example of all The Ritual Aura could
offer if care was taken to centralize a core identity, much like the abandoned synth compositions sprinkled on “The Weight of Falsehood.” Subsequent entry “Dreamer’s End” repeats the pattern: orchestra sampling dominates the mix and clouds additional contributions while mid-to-slow tempo technical riffs, barely distinct from others that appear on Velothi
, meander about, their only purpose being to loosely tie together guest portions and aforementioned symphonics.
The production can come across as muddled due to how much its forced to balance. Warning signs are abundant as early as true opener “Lorkhan, Heir of the Void,” wherein a piano-led introduction track—supposedly to create ambiance, but it’s an approach that’s been done enough to kill any possible uniqueness—collapses into a jarring explosion of chugging, robotic choir backing, the violin, and subtle piano backing, only for that to similarly dismantle itself inharmoniously into “Elysian Flesh-Divinity.” Transitions are executed poorly and rarely does progression seem earned, feeling more like moments that were constructed without knowing how to build a suitable crescendo to them. The jazz-esque bass break that randomly interrupts “A Reasonable Amount of Selfishness” disregards tone entirely and is never even hinted at again. When the clock begins to wind down on Velothi
, the original ending comes in the form of “Red Year & The Fall,” which engages in the usual solo proceedings, making it shocking when the disc suddenly stops; it had no groundwork done leading up to it, and it felt no different than any other number within the album. The arguably proper finale is not even formally placed alongside fellow tracks, instead labeled as a ‘bonus.’ Typical complaints are applicable here as well as anywhere else: what composes the crux of the song—in this case, an orchestral arrangement—is either underdeveloped and lacks footing, or it appears with nauseating regularity.
It’s always an admirable feat whenever an artist decides to throw convention out the window, instead opting to invest in gigantic ambitions. Plenty of others clock in and clock out, simply punching in their time cards every two years or so, offering the same value of work each time—consistent, but not necessarily fulfilling. In that, I suppose The Ritual Aura deserve a medal for givin’ the good ol’ 110% when composing Velothi
. The primary issue remains that of definite cohesion. Plenty of amazing seconds are perceived, but they’re too fleeting and sandwiched between overbearing samples and generally uninspired guitar writing. There’s plenty of context for many of the aforementioned elements to be done successfully, so they are not inherently at fault or unfamiliar to progressive metal genres; electronics have been in vogue ever since Nocturnus hit the scene, Ne Obliviscaris mastered how to smoothly integrate violin portions, and Persefone effectively employed female vocals, to name only choice examples. What separates those acts from The Ritual Aura is that they assemble around those intriguing aspects, though not at the expense of other members. With regards to the extensive lore posts detailing the concept behind this release, it’s evident that this was an effort that had serious, respectable purposes driving it. I have no doubts about the authenticity of Velothi
. What is equally apparent is that the collective had their eyes on a prize without understanding the steps to achieve it.