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Within the first minute, you know this is going to be an interesting listen, as the opening number of Áuryn’s debut album, Antes de Cerrar los Ojos, flits between prog metal and jazz fusion. The contrasts almost clash, and yet somehow they work. The rhythm section of Matías Catueño (on bass), and Nicolás Truchet (on drums) is on fire, and there’s some delicious guitar work from Andrés González and Nehuen Herrero. It’s a quite spectacular opening, which can initially be a little discombobulating. I honestly wasn’t quite sure if I liked what I was hearing initially. All I knew is that I wanted to hear it out. But with subsequent listens, changes which initially seemed jagged and forced, now sound smooth and natural. This is definitely an album where if it doesn’t immediately appeal, it is worth a second listen.
Hailing from Argentina, Áuryn choose not to sing in English, which means I have no real idea about what they’re singing – but if I’m honest, I’ve always preferred it when bands sing in their natural tongue. And the Romance languages always seem inherently musical to me anyway, so I am actually usually disappointed if those who could be singing in one of those languages choose English instead. That said, within the eleven or so minutes of opening number Amencay there is very little singing anyway. Over this time we get to hear the full gamut of styles Áuryn play with over the course of this album. It’s a gorgeous eclectic mix of metal, jazz and folk, veering between ballistic bursts of percussion and heaviness, and balladic beauty. Three of the band sing, and their voices create quite glorious harmonies. The song sounds all over the place on first listen – or at least, it did for me – but the pieces soon fall into place. Listening to it now, I find it hard to understand how I was unsure of it in the beginning. A wonderful opening number for an album that just keeps on giving!
Quintaesencia comes out of the gate even faster and heavier than Amancay before it. It’s a short (well, relatively so) instrumental piece, which is surprisingly enjoyable (as I don’t usually go in for prog metal wankfests, which this manages to just avoid being). It’s maybe a little reminiscent of Animals As Leaders and Dream Theater, and as those two bands have quite different sounds, its obviously not sounding too derivative of either. It’s a good length, though, as I’m just beginning to think I might be tiring of it, when it ends. Some bands don’t know when to stop, Áuryn clearly do, and that’s a major selling point for me!
The title track is next, and it swaps aggression for suggestion. I love the initial melody, as it’s just a little off kilter. Not quite what one expects, and definitely an air of mysteriousness. The bass and drums play a wicked rhythm under the vocals, and the whole thing just oozes a sense of unease, if not quite menace. The drumming in this song is some of my favourite on the album. While not sounding as heavy, in terms of noise and aggression, it actually comes across as the heaviest track yet in terms of how dark it feels. About halfway through, though, the heaviness is lifted, and the song sounds suddenly light and optimistic.
Checkpoint is another instrumental, but far more interesting than Quintaesencia for me. In fact, where I was happy the latter ended when it did, I could quite happily keep listening to more of Checkpoint. It ends abruptly (and too soon for me) as we are swept into ballad territory with Luna Llena. When it comes to prog metal bands, I almost inevitably cringe away from the ballads, as they so often seem to be mawkish, cheesy and clichéd. What saves Luna Llena from this fate is the folk vibe that comes from the piece, and especially from the vocals. Luna Llena is sung with great feeling and great sensitivity, but it never sounds overbearing, exaggerated, or melodramatic. And the instrumental finalé? Wow! One of the best closing passages on the album.
The last quiet notes of Luna Llena give the machine gun entry of Parasomnia even more impact than they already have. Again, it’s the rhythm section who really shine for me, on this track, and yet there’s no way I can ignore the glorious guitar work either. This is the longest instrumental on the album, and that allows it to travel through many moods. Definitely one of my favourites, and in a way I’m surprised it’s not my overall favourite. Usually, I tend towards favouring instrumental music over that with vocals, but the harmonies of the three vocalists of Áuryn are so enjoyable to listen to, they end up noticeable by their absence.
As if to prove this point, the following Un Lento Despertar’s long and repetitive instrumental introduction begins to wear my patience, but when the vocals kick in, all is forgiven. It may have a slow awakening, but once it gets going this is another real highlight of the album, again with enough length to really change things up multiple times along the way. For some reason, at this point the pattern of an instrumental between each vocal piece is broken. The album ends with Renacer, which has the exact same track length as the opening number. Is this deliberate, since this is a rebirth? I’m not sure, but if that is the case, it’s a nice touch. Renacer has perhaps the slowest pace (at least initially) of the album, beginning in a quite leisurely and relaxed fashion. Needless to say, there are still changes aplenty, and this is a thoroughly enjoyable track, and a wonderful way to close out an album that is an absolute pleasure to listen to.
01. Amancay (11:18)
02. Quintaescenia (5:21)
03. Antes de Cerrar los Ojos (9:50)
04. Checkpoint (4:09)
05. Luna Llena (7:42)
06. Parasomnia (7:06)
07. Un Lento Despertar (9:24)
08. Renacer (11:18)
Total Time – 66:08
Matías Catueño – Bass
Nicolás Truchet – Drums, Vocals
Andrés González – Guitar, Vocals
Nehuen Herrero – Guitar, Vocals
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Argentina
Date of Release: 26th May 2020