Premiere: Auroch – “Defixio”
Vancouver's Auroch come from a long line of Canadian metallers intent on ducking easy categorization. The minutia tells one story, the complete package another.
The trio play death metal with the barbarity of early Voivod, though their timbres and progressions place them closer to pre-Obscura Gorguts and classic Cryptopsy. In fact, the latter is a big influence on drummer Zack Chandler, a player possessing Flo Mounier's ability to turn drum fills into stampedes. It's an appropriate trait for an outfit sharing a name with an extinct ox.
Of course, Auroch themselves are directly linked to a Canadian disruptor. Guitarist/vocalist Sebastian Montesi and bassist/vocalist Shawn Hache hail from Mitochondrion. Similarities exist between the two. For instance, both bands deal with occult and mystical themes. However, Auroch is more primordial, an impressive distinction for a group so young. Hache, born in 1985, is the old man of the group by five years. Still, you'd never guess on sound alone.
Taman shud translates to "ended" or "finished" in Persian. The phrase took on new relevance in the 20th century because of the Mystery of the Somerton Man. The case concerned a gentleman found on an Adelaide, Australia beach. Evidence was slight. Things then took a turn towards the enigmatic. Hidden in the man's pocket was a clipping from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Two words appeared on the rolled piece of paper: "taman shud." The unsolved case remains a source of intrigue over 65 years later.
Taman Shud swirls with that sense of unknown. Its predecessor, 2012's From Forgotten Worlds, was more straightforward in the title department. Based on words alone, you might think Auroch have given in to the sprawl of conspiracy theories. Yet, the opposite has taken place. Perhaps owing to their previous life as thrashers named Tusk, Taman Shud is lean. Its nine tracks ring up as a Reign in Blood-esque 26 minutes. On running time alone, you might think Auroch wouldn't have enough fuel to properly explore an alternate universe. Again, the converse is true.
"Defixio," the Latin word for a curse tablet, doesn't begin so much as it careens in chaotically. A low, cave-dweller growl is occasionally assisted by a raw half-shout. The presentation is uncomfortably cryptic. As a listener, you're not initially sure which musical element to follow. Inroads open up: a "Slit Your Guts" riff here, a rich dissonance there. That said, the general instability is bracing. You're kept off-kilter for three glorious minutes of a death metal maelstrom. There's even a section sounding like what a Lovecraft character must hear whispered in their ear before making their descent. It's insanity. You can't wait to make sense of it all.
"Defixio" is the seventh song on Auroch's Taman Shud. The album will be available on Profound Lore Records, June 24.