Reviewed: March 2020
Released: 2020 The Artisan Era
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Nearly a decade after their formation, and six years removed from the debut EP Truth In Perception, Wisconsin-based prog/tech death quintet Aronious have finally got around to releasing their first full-length, Perspicacity. And the band make up for the lost time by cramming about as much as they possibly can into the ambitious, yet exhausting hour-long opus that boasts 13 songs and like a million riffs.
Restraint really doesn’t come into play here. Indeed, just about everything is taken to the nth, from the dog-fighting licks and fleet-fingered leads to the nitro-fueled tempos and neck-break time changes. No one can accuse these guys of leaving anything on the playing field – now that they actually got out there and played a whole game.
That approach has its strengths and weaknesses. The musicianship here is impeccable and the performances are exacting and spot on. Sean Smith is an absolute flailing beast of a drummer and guitarists Ryan Brumlic and Nick Weyers are as nimble as the come as they bob, weave and careen their way through the intricate collection of tracks the band have assembled here.
And while they self-produced the album, Aronious made a savvy move by hiring on Mark Lewis – who has worked with The Black Dahlia Murder, Death Angel, Whitechapel, Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, among many others – to mix and master it. He brings clarity and definition to what otherwise could have been a cluttered mess, given all the activity here.
And it’s all the activity that is the main issue with Perspicacity. It’s hard to really sink your teeth into the material. The songs tend to feel more free-form than, well, “song-like,” since the band offer only approximations of actual verses and choruses. The hulking, djenty hooks of “Somatic Evolvement,” the simmering “Self-Induced Affliction” and the ethereal, jazzy instrumental “Modernity Part 1” are easier to grasp, but also in comparatively short supply.
It also doesn’t help that the songs flow from one to the other with no genuine break, which helps to tie together the concept Aronious has conceived for the album – something to do with insight or clarity of vision, if one extrapolates from the definition of the title – but leaves little breathing room. Frontman Zach Early’s raspy vocals and emphatic cadence resemble that of Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman, who also must maneuver around unconventional structures. But without the aid of the crushing grooves Meshuggah also dole out with abundance, Early often sounds like he’s merely trying to keep pace here.
It would seem that all the time it took to pull Perspicacity together ended up giving Aronious too much time to overthink and overplay. And while the album is immaculately executed, more song craft and soul could have made what is a decent effort something triumphant. Perhaps next time.
1. Perspicacity Part 1
2. Perspicacity Part 2
3. Somatic Evolvement
4. The Passage of Knowledge
5. An Assembled Reality
6. Modernity Part 1 (Instrumental)
7. Modernity Part 2 (Instrumental)
8. Eternal Subjugation
9. Self Induced Affliction
10. The Digital Age
11. Delusions of Superiority
12. A Grim Fate
Zach Earley – vocals
Ryan Brumlic – guitar
Nick Weyers – guitar
Evan Neiman – bass
Sean Smith – drums, backing vocals