Review Summary: A progressive metal album that is actually safe to show to friends and family? This tightly packed album excels in its energetic rhythm and shower-worthy hooks.
Aurora is the debut album of the difficult-to-label band: Cave of Swimmers. Venezuelan immigrants Guillermo Gonzalez and Arturo Garcia residing in Florida have brought together an album filled with sounds of old-school power metal revival with the instrumental precision of a prog band. Spanning a brief 32 minutes, this is the shortest full-length album I have reviewed thus far, and for what it’s worth, it makes a damn good use of its half-hour.
This album almost could not have come at a better time since the primary qualities that it both thrives in, and lacks in, are essentially the opposite of a couple of other albums I have reviewed as of late. While Cave of Swimmers is delivering music that is not the most inventive thing in the world, what they bring to the table is music that is genuinely enjoyable for just about any audience. Even though Aurora may be reusing classic heavy metal tropes, they illustrate it in an undoubtedly skilled and technical way. The album is very intuitive and easy to follow and does not take incredible leaps of faith when it comes to its songwriting arrangement. Essentially, what this album brings to the table are a very short and straightforward set of songs that are ridiculously catchy and melodic, delivered with instrumental prowess that could put some of the metal oldies to shame.
The element that drew me into this album initially was its dreamy, surreal album cover. I think it is not difficult to sell an album with a cover that fantastic. And surprisingly, the music also holds up! Though it is incredibly brief, just about every song on this album is catchy as hell, delivered along with instrumentals that are rhythmic, technical, and energetic. There is not even one song in particular that deserves to be mentioned over others, just because there are so many bangers on this album. However, the one that tends to be mentioned the most is “Double Rainbow”, which I have to admit is the one that will be stuck in my head the longest time as its main vocal melody combined with its backing chorus are simply beautiful.
Even though this is, first and foremost, a vocal-driven album, other instruments such as the drums and guitar work deserve major props. This album is riffy almost as much as it is vocal. The guitar lines spread throughout the album have a somewhat stoner influence which both, hit hard, and lead the majority of Aurora‘s non-vocal hooks. Additionally, there are guitar solos on this album. Indeed, they are well placed at the rhythmic peak of each of the songs, and arrangement-wise are actually quite creative. The drums also stick out a good bit, hitting their captivating rhythms and color the background with an appropriate wooden heartbeat. They do especially well during the album’s more progressive tempo shifts where the drumming is the backbone of the music’s shifting energy.
How well these instruments sound on this album can be partially credited to its intelligent audio mixing; it feels like everything is just as loud as it should be and the drums, vocals, and guitars all leave very noticeable impacts on the listening experience. Though a smaller nitpick I have about this album is that the bass only really mimics what the lead guitar is doing and does not offer any more than to give it more low-frequency power. Hence the bass is not really a visible personality in the instruments department.
And like I said before when it comes to progressive metal I want to especially reward innovation and creativity, which is where this album can fall flat as it is not something that is super original or unique. The band plays their cards very safely when it comes to odd song structures (maybe besides the final track “C.S”). Because of this, the album can become very predictable. With this in mind, and combined with the 32-minute brevity of the album, I can’t imagine this is something that has a ton of replay value. What partially makes very complicated and grandiose albums appealing is that it takes time to be able to strip away its deep layers of accessibility giving it a longer life cycle. On the contrary, when someone listens to this album around two to three times, they may already have a good idea of everything it has to offer.
But Aurora really does not try to be something that can be seen as pretentious, which is one of its candid upsides. This is something that most prog metal fan can enjoy but can actually play it on the aux chord to their friends and family without being looked at with concerned and disappointed faces. What it offers, strong melodies all around, great mixing, beautiful choruses, and impactful instrumental energy make this album a keeper for sure.