#FOR FANS OF: Black, Emperor, Satyricon
"An Affirmation of Forsworn Vows" astutely builds its intensity to blasting height with a grating guitar texture that becomes a template for devastation later in the song. In regular black metal fashion, the tireless strings fill the air with choking clouds of sawdust as ÆRA extracts beautiful moments out of the ever-shredding grain beneath each riffing stroke. ÆRA 's rough and tumble black metal sound makes for good battle music when it erupts in fury before diving deeper into entangling its lead riff around a trestle table celebrating victory.
With plenty of atmospheric synth, a jagged juxtaposition of dragging tempo and raging temperament, and a hypnotically repetitive style that consistently forces itself onward to the next great change, this band concisely and distinctively demonstrates its handle of some of black metal's most recognizable aspects throughout 'Of Forsworn Vows'. Plenty of cymbal crashes and tinks cut through the wailing walls of guitar in the most intense moments of “Litany of Iron I: Ancient Graves of the Fallen – II: Rekindled Fires” before entering into the hall of a Satyricon style riff. ÆRA lyrically touches on notions of living and dying by the sword while surrounded by fallen brethren, ancestral rites to lands that face relentless savage sabotage, and metaphysical slaughters across mythical worlds that mimic diabolical discord on Earth. Though the band's name may translate to honor in Icelandic, the extensive violence described in “Die Wulvsara (Am Ende der Zeit)” shows that little honor will result from Ragnarok, but with how tremendous the battle is promised to be there is no place that anyone would rather be. There is elegance in this closing track as the percussion hammers home the wailing lead riff and its sobbing rhythm rejoinder while a synth backdrop uplifts the impact of the charge through Emperor's echos. After nearly eight minutes of a slow-moving build to the battle, the pieces are all set to take each other in a fierce exchange that leaves no sword unbloodied and no winner atop the mountain of carnage.
ÆRA has a first start that frequently hits at moments of Satyricon and Drudkh through this hypnotizing EP. With a good handle on their black metal and a raw production that affirms this proud and open-ended atmosphere, it will be an interesting evolution to hear how this group climbs further up the stairs of speed and momentum to materialize a monumental sound in the treble-tinned ears of black metal fans.