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Esperoza - Aum Corrupted

 Esperoza - Aum Corrupted

CD Info
WormHoleDeath Records and Aural Music
10 tracks
Mostly English lyrics
9 / 10 

Esperoza has been described as a Moldavian Symphonic Extreme/Dark Metal band. It’s character and sound have been in the works since around 2010. Now I recognize that Moldova may not be considered a hot spot of Femme metal, but then, one might say the same for much of the good ol’ US of A. But this is some good stuff. The project began when vocalist Zoya Belous and guitarist Dmitrii Prihodko got the idea to do a little dark metal for the locals. According to their PR material that was probably not the easiest thing in the world to do, Moldova not being a top environment for that kind of thing. But, they were able to find a few folks to help out, at least with the recording part of things and were able to put out a nice little EP focusing on old school death, black, thrash metal with symphonic orchestration and opera vocals in the 2012 time frame. But, they were limited to a studio effort at first. There were some live performances but they were limited, like, whenever they could find a drummer and another guitarist. In the 2014 time frame a more complete release came into being, this one again focusing on complex orchestrations and multilayered vocals, accompanied by old school death, black and thrash riffs. After this the band hit the road performing in Moldova, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Ukraine. And straight away, they began work on another release, this time with a full time drummer; Vadim “Kravis” Cartovenko. The music for this release, the one under review here, took a slightly different direction. The band originally described it in general terms as “doom death black atmospheric metal”. But, it’s a particular interpretation of that musical direction. With Eastern Europe, there is a general fascination with multiple “Doom” styles, but this one is somewhat different, and relatively interesting, assuming doom is your cup of tea. The band commented on this evolution saying Aum Corrupted “is a very dark, depressive, obscure and personal piece, and has a completely different sound from the first album, therefore was chosen to remove from the genre ‘Symphonic Extreme’ tag, and to leave just ‘Metal’ genre”. Well, we can argue about tags all day I guess, but, my description would certainly focus on the vocals provided by the Ms. Belous. She does solid work, both as a classical vox and doing harsh vocals. The first time I heard music from this release I was quite convinced that one of the male performers was doing the harsh vocals but my understanding is that Belous does both, maybe not all the time but a good part of it. Not sure about that, but, either way, it does provide a solid sound over the background instrumentals.

Well, anyway, it’s not easy to describe this material, we cover a varied musical landscape. The release begins with a short intro called A Broken Passage which sure reminds me of some of the material from the 60s and 70s especially designed and developed for the stoners. Jim Morrison would have loved it. It’s instrumental with Belous doing some heavenly background vocals. But it leads into an even more interesting doom track, Egohypnotized. This one provides the requisite doom background while Belous provides a classical vox to tell the story. And the story reveals that this release will be short on happy times:

all is blackness / the unceasing vanity / with hopelessness ends
incessantly spreads / all is blackness / viscous pain
in all of my being / and the end is so close

That section is done in the classical voice, but, the response is harsh, both in sound and message:

in this life / your venom is poisoning me / I am blackness

Unknown Summons goes in a more metal / doom direction. We get more harsh vocals over a pounding guitar and a drum from the Black Watch. There are times when we get what sure sounds like the classical and the brutal together. Now, this could be done in a production mode, or it could be two vocalists, not sure, but it sure works nicely. We get some nice keyboard material and what sounds like strings to float the metal over but it’s the guitars that seem to carry us to the various dark lyrical statements. Again, Esperoza doesn’t do pretty thoughts, they seem comfortable working from the darkness and this track makes sure we stay there.

Tomb of Deeds gives Belous an opportunity to demonstrate another vocal capability. This one works in a more metal style, but the desperation in the voice works well with the more personal perspective delivered in the lyrics. The band changes the pace several times in the track, sometimes focusing on the guitars, other times moving back to the strange lyrical delivery. And, again, we get multiple vocal lines, taking the female vocal and twisting it around the melody from multiple directions.

There are several fully instrumental tracks on the release. One of these is Nocturne Opus 93 and it’s definitely worth listening to. No doom here, this one is classical, piano based, almost Mozart in style, a strange interlude to be sure, but nicely placed.

And then we’re back to pounding doom. Blame it on Me is ruthless, pounding, unmerciful metal, utilizing harsh vocals, screaming background sounds and the classical vox. . . all in one track. Belous has a lovely classical vox but often uses it in some relatively strange ways. The crushing death metal vox, on the other hand, is a consistent utilization of a truly lovely delivery system, one that works well with the message. But, those multiple delivery alternatives go up a notch in the following track, Periods of 8. Here we get distorted background sounds, in a language hard to understand, that take us to a pounding dirge of doom. Again, we get lot of harsh vocal but, with this one, the harsh vocals are answered in a heavenly vocal. It’s a conversation with some of the best mixed vocals you’re going to hear.

The early lyrics are delivered with a dark harsh vocal:

eternal struggle / my mind is unrest / how can this world be so
ravaging, corrupted and / I have to walk through
this endless maze / finding no shelter / innocence raped

The response comes with the beautiful, B & B at it’s best:

unfair one / holds this bouquet of thorns
vengeful my spirit clenches fists / step onto this field of souls
battered and lost / here in eternal stupor I stand / confronting the powers that be

Desolate Grief (Interlude) is another instrumental, but, again, it comes with some truly beautiful vocal work, maybe the most beautiful stretch of music on the release. But, it returns to the doom with I Rot, a rocker of the highest order. Again, we mix the heavenly with the darkness vocally, and the thoughts again register somewhere south on the happy scale:

we are rotting from the inside out / turning into biomass
all our life it's just a death / in a slow motion
 it's a hollow of meaningless emptiness / we’re not evolving / we are degrading
we are descending / evaporating

The final track is ...and here comes the immaculacy / Aum Mantra (you will be punished for your prayers). Not sure how to describe this one. It’s a near 16 minute track that starts out with a flute and some Indian style music. . . not American Indian, the other Indian. And then we get what damn sure sounds like a sitar, and I know a sitar when I hear one. I sat through 5 hours of Ravi Shankar at the first Monterey Pop Festival, in a somewhat altered state of consciousness I will admit, but I learned a little about the instrument. Well, this one is suppose to be about Mantras and I guess that’s what’s going on. . . . for a long time. But, the music is interesting and the doom is solid. Not sure the Indians know this style but it sure worked for me.

So, that’s Aum Corrupted, not your average metal, not your average doom but surely an interesting way to spend an hour or so. Given the group’s interest in moving between musical directions it will be interesting to see what comes next. Until then, this one is worth the listen.