(eOne Music/Good Fight)
Heliospectrum is a great example of a debut from a band who just gets it. Auras play a style of progressive metalcore (sure, “djent”) that feels rather standard at first listen, but the Ontario-based group infuse enough flair and subtle touches to make their long-awaited debut feel fresh. Their sound stretches to the more melodic and delightfully punishing ends of the djent spectrum; sonic lineage is taken from After the Burial, Ion Dissonance on one end and Volumes and Intervals on the other end. That’s all to say that Auras specializes in chaotic intensity married with passages of staggering beauty (and nice melodic touches strewn about). However, the best moments on Heliospectrum signal a band who hasn’t even peaked yet.
Maybe the biggest and most impressive aspect of this debut is how varied Auras keeps things. Songs tend to have a unique feel, and the moments of chaos or calm come surprisingly at times, which is a rare feat at this point. The album doesn’t get off to its best start, as “Waterstone” and “The Ripple Effect”, while solid slabs of groove-centric tech-metal, feel a little bit like the band is just coloring within the lines. Sure, Auras’ coloring within the lines is quite pretty (especially with subtle melodies floating around), but the band is best when they let their headier side come out. Heliospectrum closes with two of its best songs, “Infinite Influence” features a lovely solo by Intervals’ main man Aaron Marshall, but it’s a testament to Auras that his flowing, soulful salvo fits in with the song’s playful groove. The record ends with its most melodic tune yet, highlighting how impressive the band’s sense of rhythmic timing is. When Auras spreads its more melodic wings, the songs feel that much heavier and more impressive because there’s something to contextualize the punishing groove.
What’s maybe most impressive about Heliospectrum is how heavy it feels despite the band really expanding its melodic delivery, with clean singing and melodic guitar work doing a lot of heavy lifting once the album kicks in. While so many bands begin to embrace melody as a way to do something “new”, often in the name of leaving the metal world behind for good, too few actually feel like they are expanding their sound; they’re just shifting sonic modes. For Auras and their excellent debut, Heliospectrum feels like a jumping off point to a really promising career. Sure, you can play spot the influence a lot, but most of this album feels like a wishlist for prog metalcore fans. While it’s difficult to find a band that can do it all, Auras really is a near-perfect Christmas present for fans of the style, equally adept at crushing you to death and soothing you over their inflected wounds. With Heliospectrum, you don’t have to compromise to get (almost) it all.