Released: 2015, Lacerated Enemy Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
From Down Under comes some of the most mind-bogglingly over-the-top technical death metal you're likely to hear this side of Rings of Saturn, Origin or Archspire.
Indeed, for a genre that prides itself – for better or worse – on its dizzying displays of instrumental prowess and audacity, the debut album from Perth, Australia-based The Ritual Aura put most others to shame. Laniakea offers almost Dragonforce-style shamelessness taken to the tech-death nth degree, all in a turbulent yet remarkably efficient 26 minutes. Laniakea almost rivals Reign In Blood in its ability to jam so much intensity and activity – albeit of a different ilk - into such a tidy package.
But it's probably about all most people – even hardened tech-death fans – will be able to handle. After the brief piano intro “Mythos of Sojourn,” The Ritual Aura go right for the synapses with the light-speed ear-bleed of “Ectoplasm,” a veritable eruption of Bill and Ted-style widdly, widdly guitar shred, roiling bass and cyclonic drums. From there, it's a series of solos and mad, spastic dashes strung together by the odd hook and 'urped/roared vocals from Jamie Kay.
Repeat that a half-dozen or so more times, and you've got Laniakea in a nutshell. And while “Time Lost Utopia” does approximate an actual song – there are recognizable verses and something of a chorus – most of the album is an absolute free-for-all, with Kay hollering over the top wherever he can squeeze things in.
Yet there's even some token clean singing and weird but more fitting robotic vocalizing – given the material's sci-fi thematics - amid the tumult of “Erased In The Purge.” So Kay gets a chance to show off as well, though he ends up essentially playing like fourth fiddle to his bandmates over the bulk of Laniakea.
The album's super slick production accentuates the mathematical precision and often ludicrously athletic performances of guitarist Levi Dale and bassist Darren Joy – who employs an NS Stick here so he can tap-tap away like mad while Dale runs up and down his own fretboard. Twenty-six minutes is probably about all these guys can handle at once as well, before having to stop for a Red Bull and maybe a massage.
Laniakea is one of those albums that has to be heard to be believed. Its unapologetic and gleeful technicality are utterly unreal, but strangely compelling, at least for a few listens. Yet once the initial shock and awe of all the pyrotechnics wears off, there's really not much songiness underneath to maintain your interest. So enjoy it while you can.