Every Friday, The Metal Examiner delves metal’s endless depths to present the genre’s most important and exciting albums.
Augury: “Alien Shores”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Augury_Alien_Shores.mp3|titles=Augury: “Alien Shores”]
Though Quebec-based death-prog band Augury earned rave reviews in the metal press with its 2009 release, Fragmentary Evidence, its 2004 debut, Concealed, went largely unnoticed at the time, save for some devotees on the fringe. A reissue of that disc doesn’t lessen any of its original challenge, but it may well give fans of technical metal something new to cheer about.
Newcomers beware: Concealed is not an easy listen. The individual tracks (“songs” isn’t always the correct term; “sequences” may work better) live and die by their constant shifts, resulting in music that seems as difficult for a listener to follow as it is for the musician to play. Throw in Augury’s steadfast devotion to its tone and sonic aesthetics, and what begins as a promising suite can end up as a stream-of-consciousness barrage of sound. This is technical music that goes beyond technique — beyond mere “math rock” — into its own brand of astrophysical metal.
The reward of Concealed, however, lies in the moments where Augury lets itself not just breathe but really play — where the assault gives way to the group’s tremendous compositional skill. Try as they might to hide behind half-measure blast beats and unclassifiable time signatures, the melodic sections of Concealed call to mind any of the best practitioners of not just progressive metal but even straight-ahead progressive rock. Not that the relentless, shape-shifting riffs of “…Ever Know Peace Again” could be called straight-ahead by even the loosest definition, but the acoustic threads winding through “The Lair Of Purity” and “From Eden Estranged” form a simultaneous callback to both middle-period Opeth and, dare it be said, Pink Floyd.
It’s this full awareness of the group’s bag of tricks that just barely keeps Concealed from devolving into cartoonish super-prog. Even with volume swells in the intro sections, even with Arianne Fleury’s operatic female soprano duetting with Patrick Loisel’s death growls, even with “tasteful guitar sections” simply meaning “the acoustic parts,” Augury shows a keen understanding of its capabilities and its limitations. The group knows how to write a song, but it also knows when it’s okay to avoid writing one altogether.
This edition of Concealed also includes a pair of bonus tracks recorded in 2006. Though “Skyless” and “Faith Puppeteers” don’t move too far from Concealed’s original template, the marching riffs and near-fist-pumping thrash of the latter suggest that the band might have contemplated a more accessible sound for its next move. Those plans fell by the wayside, of course, as Fragmentary Evidence went even further over the top than its predecessor, but the two tracks here provide an interesting look at the path not taken.