Here’s something that sounds like a shitty non sequitur of a lead-in to a review of an excellent black metal album: The quest for perfection often inhibits the quest for betterment. We want the best thing, so we ignore the good thing. Too often with a certain strain of atmospheric black metal these days, I hear a band straining self-consciously for perfection: the prettiest chords; the most delicate acoustics; the most triumphantly soaring crescendos; the most precious and delicate flourishes. None of these are rotten aspirations, but running after all of them, all at once, every time, can often enervate whatever vitality or momentum the band has otherwise summoned.
The opening track, “Arkanum,” might be the album’s finest moment, as in its eventual torrent of quickly cycling leads it sounds like several streams of water tumbling over a boulder-studded riverbed. The sound spools out across passages of relentless blasting and more mid-paced breathing room, but at every moment is pushing forward and outward, as if impatient to learn what new vista is just around the corner. The album’s sound is full and powerful, with a relatively modern punch to the drums that works to heighten rather than detract from the drama of the songwriting. Everything in these five songs is crafted to buttress multi-instrumentalist Berg’s sumptuously melodic guitar leads – listen to how the cymbal work on the drums plays against one of the album’s very best leads towards the end of “Aargesang (Aare II).”
One thing more to admire greatly here is the album’s economy: Five songs breeze by in just 34 efficient minutes, but just as with the relatively short duration of Drudkh’s early albums, the listener still feels swept up in a full narrative arc. The shrill howl of Fluss’s vocals works well enough, but sometimes fades too easily into the treble. Elsewhere, there’s a playfully melodic and sprinting guitar lead that kicks in around 4:18 on “Stein auf Stein” that plays off the drums nicely, but feels like it could have been developed a bit more into the rest of the composition.
Ultimately, I don’t know if there’s yet a particularly unique identity for Aara, but En Ergô Einai is a richly satisfying and frequently thrilling album. Aara excels at weaving a dense tangle of swift and interlocking guitar lines in a way that nevertheless feels almost weightless, tethered to earth only by the dirt under the nails and sweat on the brow that mark these songs as the honest work of people more committed to the sound they hear than the immaculate conception of an illusory perfection.