Hey there, tech fiends. It's that time of the week again. Before we dive into today's focus, here's the usual weekly reminder that if you're looking for even more sick bands to hear, all prior editions of this series can be perused here.
If you’ve been following this space the last couple years, or, seen any of my posts at No Clean Singing in the past, you’ll know how much I love The Ritual Aura. Their first album, Laniakea, was an over-the-top tech-death overload that showcased a remarkably strong progressive death metal focus in between and outside of their main aggressive focus. The group’s 2016 second full-length, Tæther, went all-in on the progressive death metal and progressive metal side of things, offering an intricately layered over an hour-long in length journey that saw the group really expand their sound outwards in a multitude of ways.
Now, the group’s third album, Velothi, is finally about to see release, coming out this Friday, August 30th. I’m incredibly excited to share an exclusive early stream of the album with you all today. As usual, you can scroll down and start playing the album, or, read on for more information and discussion of what Velothi has to offer from the bands own words and my take on it as well.
After Tæther showed The Ritual Aura inhabiting a very different approach to writing focused more on their progressive metal and progressive death metal inclinations over tech-death as a whole, I was curious as to what the group would create on Velothi. An answer came early with early singles like “Keening III: Dreamer’s End”, which we premiered here in this space back in 2017. That song brought back a lot of the hyper shredding and skull-splintering ferocity of the first album and re-combined it with Tæther's progressive tendencies and love for layering their music with a combination of orchestration, piano, violin, and Erhu among others.
If you’re new to the band, from Tæther into Velothi, the best way I could succinctly describe their sound is somewhere between The Faceless, Ne Obliviscaris, Ron Jarzombek, and Opeth melding and blended together in a powerful manner.
Getting back to “Dreamer’s End” and how it’s early release as a single feels like a nice "proof of concept" kind of single as a jumping-off point for the album as a whole, the song features some excellent singing from Drew Griffith whose haunting singing was another element that took on a more expansive role with Tæther and that holds true here as well. For Velothi, they also add Flute and Harp to the fold as well to the vast arsenal of non-metal instrumentation, some core line-up shifts that add fresh blood to the group's assault, and a massive number of great guest spots enhancing the songs throughout the album.
The Ritual Aura has always had a penchant for multi-song suites, their first album had a two-part song, Tæther had a two-part song and a four-song suite. They’ve become quite adept at this style of multi-song writing that's dynamic and flows together brilliantly. Yet, I would argue they've perfected doing so best here on Velothi, especially since this is a streamlined about 30 minutes in length effort. One that consists of a killer piano intro from my good friend Jimmy Pitts, followed by 2 four-song cycles, and ends with a short outro, a short cover of “Silt Sunrise” music from Morrowind which is the inspiration for this release.
I had a lot more to say about the album, but, bandleader Levi Dale offered up a lengthy statement about Velothi that covers much of what I was going to say so it seemed best to place his full statement here versus blathering on more on my end. Levi explains a lot about every aspect of Velothi in his statement, explaining that, "Following the release of Tæther at the end of 2016 work began on what would become Velothi; originally planned and announced as a two-track EP focusing on lore from The Elder Scrolls universe, particularly that of the Morrowind era. It wasn't something we intended to spend three years on, but that EP became the massive undertaking that was our third full-length; Velothi. Here we are in 2019 and it's finally done!
Each TRA release so far has had underlying themes and folklore attached; with Laniakea's spin on sci-fi tropes and the Japanese horror-folklore explored on Tæther. This is something we tend to decide fairly early on as the music is a reflection of (and largely inspired by) the initial concept, and it's never been as prevalent as it is on Velothi – Our take on high-fantasy, and a genre I'm sure we'll return to soon because it was a blast to write music for.
Musically, Velothi bridges the gap between Laniakea's technicality and Tæther's proggier approaches, or at least that was the intention. There's something for people on both sides with a ton of new additions as well; most notably the orchestral elements which are prominent in almost every track. While it's something we've dabbled with before, this time it's a core aspect of the album. Those savvy to TES lore will also find another layer of depth in the lyrics; beyond the surface-level death metal ramblings of yore, we packed a universe into 30 minutes.
While it's not the hour+ length of Tæther, Velothi is just as dense on the lyrical front if not more so, with the source material having roots in things like metaphysics, Eastern religion and mythology. Velothi follows the story of Lorkhan, progenitor of all living things in the TES mythos.
Split into two sagas consisting of four parts each; 'Sunder' and 'Keening' – Sunder covers the creation myth and fate of Lorkhan, while Keening follows the story of his heart; torn from his chest as penance for his hand in creation of the world and cast into it. The heart has arcane properties which, if harnessed, can ascend one into godhood – naturally it's a major point of contention and betrayal.
With all that said, we're very pleased with the end result and to finally share it with you all is truly awesome. Thanks for sticking with us over the years, the wait is over, and you'll hear more from us sooner rather than later."
Velothi does an incredible job at pushing the band forwards once more by building upon all that Tæther accomplished while re-introducing some of their debut album’s more linear tech-death inclinations back into their sound at the same time. The result makes for the groups' strongest release yet, and, clocking in at just under 30 minutes, there’s hardly a moment of filler to be found in spite of how epic and jaw-dropping the back-to-back four-song cycles that make up the bulk of the album are. I’d strongly urge you to check out The Ritual Aura – Velothi below and give it a few spins at a minimum. If you’re into it, you can order Velothi through Bandcamp here. You can follow the group over on The Ritual Aura Facebook Page.