Originally written by Erik Thomas
Despite being familiar with Patrick Loisel’s previous project Kralizec via their mind-bending 1999 album Origin (for which I’m willing to pay a decent amount if anyone has a copy — I only have a promo), I didn’t actually discover his post-Kralizec project Augury until 2009’s brilliant Fragmentary Evidence. And since then, I’ve been trying to score Augury’s 2004 debut, originally released on Galy Records, but to no avail. So in steps another indie Canadian label, Sonic Unyon Records, to the rescue with a remastered and repackaged (and redesigned by Aborted’s Swen De Calluwe) re-issue of a CD that in retrospect would have certainly challenged Necrophagist’s Epitaph as 2004’s most challenging and brilliant tech-death album, as well as Disillusion’s Back to Times of Splendor as my favorite album of the year.
Of course, the album is played by some of Canada’s master musicians, not just Loisel but some true tech-death heavyweights like Etienne Gallo (Neuraxis, Negativa) on drums and bassist Dominic Lapointe (Atheretic, Quo Vadis, Negativa) so the skill and musicianship is off the charts. But what actually struck me about initial listens to Concealed was how much more progressive, unhinged and frenzied it is compared to Fragmentary Evidence. I got much more of a chaotic, even more unique almost Unexpect vibe, often by way of then-full-time female vocalist Arianne Fleury. And while Unexpect’s vocalists contributed some vocals on one song for Fragmentary Evidence, here, Ms Fleury is heavily involved in most of the songs, not just a fleeting guest shot. Her soprano wails coupled with Loisel’s deep roars and clean croons and the already-dizzying structures just adds a little more insanity to the mix. That being said, Fragmentary Evidence could be construed as a tightening up and focusing of Concealed‘s more unbridled hues, so if you own Fragmentary Evidence, you still have a reference point.
As I never heard the original release of Concealed, I can’t compare the production (I can’t imagine a 2004 Yannick St-Amand & Jean-Francois Dagenais production being bad), but this remaster does make the album sound a lot like Fragmentary Evidence as far as a purely audio standpoint. But musically, Concealed was and still is utterly mind-blowing, no matter the production then and now. From the opening track “Beatus”, it’s obvious that Augury were (and are still) simply shattering ceilings and shredding envelopes with their take on extreme metal. The kaleidoscope of cosmic electronics, brutal death metal, female choirs, stuttering blasts and sheer skill is very close to being overwhelming and pretentious. But within the chaos and jaw-dropping musicianship, there’s a certain cosmic intelligence and cerebral brutality at work that keep things right on the edge, making the material as memorable as it is dizzying. That being said, that line is flirted with, crossed and doubled back within seconds during each track that fills Concealed.
Like death metal being played by multi-limbed extra-terrestrials with the vocals going through some sort of shorted-out voice translator, the warped, ever-shifting music rarely lets you immediately absorb what’s going on. So many times during the likes of “…Ever Know Peace Again”, “Cosmic Migration”, “Alien Shores”, “Nocebo” (featuring Cryptopsy’s short-lived vocalist Martin Lacroix) or “In Russian Dolls Universes”, you’ll find yourself being caught in the sonic jet-stream of tech-death chaos, your face rippling at mach 5 levels, only to realize some moments later “Did they really just do that bridge, drum fill, choir, vocal interplay, time change or solo?” It’s like some cosmic tech-death metal time/space continuum where your brain simply won’t register what’s going on as it happens. And so multiple listens are indeed a requirement.
However, the album’s 7-plus minute centerpiece “The Lair Of Purity” shows a restraint and truly epic coherence with what would have indisputably been one of the best songs of 2004: delicate acoustics, choirs, huge melodic riffs and a chord progression that was way ahead of its time for brutal/tech-death metal. Sorry — as much as I like their contemporary current tech-death peers like Fleshgod Apocalypse, Obscura and Decrepit Birth. Fleshgod Apocalypse and Obscura weren’t around till 2006; Obscura’s debut was a fairly standard tech-death offering, and Decrepit Birth’s mindlessly blasting 2003 debut was a far cry from their current iteration. THIS track is as fucking ambitious, progressive and brilliant as death metal gets. And the album, like Lykathema Aflame’s debut 4 years prior, was and still is a game-changer, 7 years after its release.
As a requisite bonus material, this re-issue also features two bonus tracks, “Skyless” and “Faith Puppeteers” from their 2006 demo, which ultimately got them signed to Nuclear Blast and then appeared on Fragmentary Evidence. Not a plethora of bonus material, but when the album itself is such a landmark release, you really don’t need to dress it up any further.
So — who is going to step up and re-issue Lykathea Aflame’s Elvenefris?