Reviewing albums by established bands always feels like walking a fine line between over-comparison to old albums and glossing over a band’s roots. For better or worse, I have sidestepped this predicament with Augury’s Illusive Golden Age. Despite this record being the Montreal, Canada quartet’s third since their inception in 2001, Illusive Golden Age marked my formal introduction to the band’s technical/progressive death metal sound. Now signed to The Artisan Era (Dark Matter Secret, Equipoise, Inferi, Virulent Depravity), the group is well-positioned to demonstrate the benefits of maturity in an age of new artists. So do they?
Where most records of this genre either open with symphonic bombast or sonic brutality, the title track fades up from nothingness with fretless bass and clean, exotic guitar scales before building into some striking guitar call-and-response. Unlike much of their Montreal tech death brethren, Augury put more focus on a unique melodic sense and mid-tempo riffage, but that’s not to say that they forsake hyperspeed altogether. Another interesting, if oddly placed, element we are introduced to right away is some throaty clean vocals (think Machine Head), which are contrasted by some almost slam-like gutturals. Though neither approach is particularly well-suited to Augury’s sound in my ears, they do set the band apart from much of the progressive death metal milieu.
Placing themselves apart from the pack seems to be Augury’s forte, yet they rarely go to tasteless extremes to do it. The single “Carrion Tide” rides some blackened tendencies into an uplifting chord progression. The latter is filled in by Dominic ‘Forest’ Lapointe’s incredible fretless bass performance before later exploring a psychedelic instrumental interlude. By comparison, “Mater Dolorosa” opens with a relentless yet never monotonous piece of progressive death metal, incorporating unique octave riffs and excellent bass interplay before revisiting some exotic melodicism. The song then ends with some impressive guitar solos. Though the bar for guitar playing in this genre is already exceedingly high, guitarist/vocalist Patrick Loisel and guitarist Mathieu Marcotte incorporate jazzy atonality and neoclassical stylings into their individual voices in a confident and distinct way. This ability to combine a variety of traditional approaches into something impressive and discrete makes Illusive Golden Age easy to dismiss at first, but noticeably more engaging with each listen.
“Anchorite” closes the eight tracks on the album with the longest run time here. The band demonstrates their stamina here, maintaining a punishing pace for most of the song’s eight minutes. Though Lapointe’s bass performance is never short of astounding on the record, the mix on this track highlights the impressive rhythmic and melodic interplay that makes his work easily one of the best parts of the album.
As mentioned earlier, my first inclination when starting Illusive Golden Age was to dismiss it as some solid but derivative progressive death metal. However, each repeat listen gives way to the layers that make this album deceptively mature and engaging. It is obvious that the band took their time crafting their record here (their previous release, Fragmentary Evidence, was released in 2009). Although part of me would hope for some more finely honed vocals and differentiated arrangements, Illusive Golden Age is a strong return to the progressive death metal scene by Augury.
Notable Tracks: “Illusive Golden Age”; “Carrion Tide”
FFO: The Faceless, Persefone, Beyond Creation