4 out of 5
Label: Auris Apothecary
Produced by: Truus (recorded by)
Okay, we have massively reverbed, cavernous production and a washed out mix; constantly hoarsely-growled vocals; a vaguely blood and viscera bedecked piece of cover art; and a band logo with an upside down cross and death metal lettering. I’m prepared to toss this in a pile of black metal offshoots, and allow more well-versed fans explain to me and my genre-untrained ears how Truss’ …Of Days Gone is better or worse than others bands’ releases of its ilk.
But I do note some things helping me form my own opinion, here: while the recording definitely has the spacey, flat vibe of stuff I associate with this sound, there is more dimension to it than that: the percussion is sharp, and perhaps because the band isn’t playing straight death metal, there’s more punctuation and range to the music than I would’ve expected. Mixer Dante Augustus Scarlatti (no stranger to making a lot of Auris Apothecary’s metal- and noise-adjacent music sound fantastic) can surely be credited for some of this, but also, undeniably, it’s in how Truus is composing this stuff: as an ambitious blend of, yeah, black metal, but also post-metal, thrash, and perhaps even post-rock. The music is an intriguing back-and-forth mix of these; I think it was the utterly Slayer-esque solo on In Thrall To that caught my ears – as it then rallied back into wall-of-sound death metal – then making me hear what was essentially a half-step between hardcore and 90s Chicago post-rock on the title track, albeit fronted by a singer you’d expect to have a Norwegian name, wear a lot of eye makeup, and probably have a murder rap. Once you’re tuned into this mish-mash, it’s incredibly fascinating and often quite surprising, turning 8 songs of perhaps brushed off yelly stuff into an immersive and dense album of riffage.
Somewhere along here, I also realized I could parse some of the what the singer was saying. Handy liner notes add to the praise: while fitting in to a general “rally against the man” template, with some feudal-esque imagery, there’s not a swear word or eye-rolling epithet in sight – it’s actually quite literate stuff, and passionate. And… hopeful? I mean – don’t worry, it still fits the oppressive vibe of the whole affair, and it’s hard not to read some post-Trump feelings into it (though it’s pretty open ended), but there’s a nice progression from the “setting” of the lyrics being a war-torn land that’s then encouraged to wait for the chance to rebel.
The one aspect in which this melange of styles doesn’t always necessarily support the album is when the style gets in the way of the substance, something that also has come up on other Auris releases. By draping …Of Days Gone in the general aural affects of black metal, it can undermine the coolness of what’s going on. That Slayer track is a pretty good example: the recording can’t show off the crispness of the group’s thrash attack, washing it out so that it sounds almost sloppy at points. My vague understanding of this style is that it was part of the often solo and amateurish nature of some artists in the scene, but when you have songs with legit chops worth showing off, it’s okay to do so; similarly, the post-rock elements could’ve been better served with more production dynamism. Now, as mentioned, Scarlatti’s mix brings a lot of this out, and I do like how some elements shine through the reverby sound, so I’m not saying to ditch it, just that there’s probably some other compromise that could make everything shine.
As is, though, Truus’ full-length release is incredibly impressive, and far more nuanced than an initial listening pass could ever suggest.