Aoria – The Constant

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Review by Jason Guest

Version Studio Records

Comprising members of A Swarm Of the Sun (Erik Nilsson on vocals and guitar), October Tide (Robin Bergh on drums), and Katatonia (Niklas Sandin on bass) means that this is another band that will be suffering the inevitable comparisons with their other bands and risk dismissal as “just another side project”. If that’s how you feel then so be it, but in doing so you may miss out on something special. The hybridity of this album pushes the bounds of the genres that the musicians are renowned for to the point where a clear identification is not so readily proffered. The band’s influences, however, are easily recognised with a heaving dose of Radiohead and Tool having been heaped into the melting pot. But even though Erik Nilsson’s vocals make too much of a nod in the direction of Thom Yorke, they are as a serenade and lull the listener into his melancholic melodies and stoic lamentations. The music too bears striking similarities to Radiohead’s oeuvre – The Bends and OK Computer in particular – as well as Tool and A Perfect Circle, especially in ‘You Really Gave It All, Didn’t You?’. But despite these all-too-salient shortcomings in their sound, The Constant is a great album.

At once ominous and unsettling, there’s a sensitivity to the music that though there’s a sense of familiarity to it, it is stunning in its ability to be so moving. The music moves in stages, as of the tender euphoria that comes with the realisation that our mortality is as terrifying as it is emancipatory. The dynamics, the structures and the arrangements are controlled, focussed, subdued even, and always interesting. The almost restrained feel to the album makes it so compelling, the band being able to convey so much more in a riff, a lyric, or a verse than most bands can in a whole track. Case in point is the instrumental ‘The Bleeder’, a track that gradually blooms before its full despondency is unveiled in the latter half. Throughout the album, light and dark are blended in such a rich solemnity that the resonance of each track is like the gentle wash of a wave that simultaneously cleansing the soul and clawing at the frail frame that holds it captive. As much a progressive work as it could be considered post-rock, the atmospheric and emotional depths of this album rescue it from the bargain basement of cheap imitation. As with the recently reviewed Soen and Lizzard and a host of other bands that seem content to sit nervously in the penumbra of their influence’s shadows, Aoria need to establish their own identity, and give us more than just six tracks. With such musicians at the helm, Aoria are more than capable.

7.5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. A Slow Moving Storm
  2. The Black Heart
  3. Assassination
  4. The Bleeder
  5. You Really Gave It All, Didn’t You?
  6. An Overwhelming Calm