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As Summer Dies, Vukari’s “Abrasive Hallucinations” Come Alive


When we talk about atmosphere in black metal, we’re talking about layering, density, and intensity. Bands seem to take one of two routes: either they champion a raw and unembellished sound (resulting in that oftentimes purposeful claustrophobic feeling) or a more polished and “lush” approach (resulting in something a bit more blossoming than choking). Both directions lead to stylistic wonderlands of possibility, from encasing you in black metal’s icy void prison to launching you toward an infinite cosmos. And while the eventual direction is up to the artists in question, it’s the final trifecta of layering, density, and intensity that persists, though, no matter how rough or smooth the black metal is. Personally, as summer here in Chicago wanes and winter approaches, I want something to counteract the sun’s earlier setting and the air’s rapid cooling and, generally, the city’s approach toward total and nearly unlivable frigidity. I need out of that claustrophobia, something to expand my mind instead of encasing it.

For that, I’ve turned to Chicago-based quartet Vukari and their upcoming third full-length Aevum. Here’s a taste with an exclusive premiere of the album’s opening track “Abrasive Hallucinations (Reality Hemorrhaging).”

I’ve been a Vukari fan for a while now, having seen a number of their shows around Chicago, and let me tell you: this band gets better and better with every performance and every release. The band had teased a few demos earlier this year (tracks which eventually made it onto the album, but remastered of course) that piqued my interest, but upon hearing “Abrasive Hallucinations (Reality Hemorrhaging),” I knew immediately Vukari had found their wavelength. Black metal is already a saturated genre, especially the super-atmospheric corner that Vukari occupies, but the band steps out of that (and their own) mold with Aevum. The riffs are tighter, the blasts are more concrete, and the songwriting has become extremely emotive — any “flatness” predicated by Vukari’s postmodern tilt gets destroyed just by just the sheer weight of the thing. Aevum is emotionally heavy, the most important kind of heavy, and that ethos has been woven throughout all eight of these medium-format tracks (with the album closer being a longer, more involved behemoth unto itself).

The opening track gives an ample taste of what’s to follow, but remember: opening tracks set the tone, mood, and atmosphere of the songs that follow. As Aevum plays on, Vukari’s wavelength ebbs and flows with humongous valleys and skyscraping climaxes, just the sort of undulations that black metal has championed for emotional intensity. As far as layering and density go, Aevum feels completely maximized but not overdone, which is extremely important for any black metal release not looking to just crush your head (the album was recorded and mixed in-house by bassist Spenser Morris who’s also worked with Panopticon and Saor, then mastered at Trakworx Mastering by Justin Wies who’s also worked with Agalloch, Pallbearer, and Vhol). Vukari takes the earworm approach, letting you soak into their luscious atmospherics without forcing your mind’s hand. This is something I’ve noticed about their live performance, too, and unlike many bands who attempt this, Vukari have succeeded in translating some of that live “reality” to the recorded material. So, I’m filing this one under “albums to jam while Chicago descends into another horrific winter,” and with that, maybe I know I’ll make it yet another go-around the sun.

Aevum releases October 1st via Vendetta Records. Pre-orders will go live tomorrow afternoon.

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