Triade III: Nyx by Aara

Release date: March 31, 2023
Label: Debemur Morti Productions

The outer reaches of black metal have always appreciated a good conceptual trilogy. Ulver’s Trilogie is rightly the stuff of legend, Deathspell Omega got all metaphysical with their own sprawling offerings, and Blut Aus Nord seemingly perfected the format with 777. Still, there’s always room for improvement and from the outset, Swiss trio Aara were onto something special. The first installation of Triade, an adaptation of Charles Robert Maturin’s Faustian gothic novel Melmoth The Wander, was a shining example of black metal’s potential for atmosphere, melody and experimentation, and its sequel doubled down on that promise. The riffs were tighter and more memorable, the drumming even more precise and the shrieks of Fluss were icier than ever. Nyx, the trilogy’s final part, doesn’t seek to carve a new path for itself but instead provides a fitting final chapter, a slice of pristine black metal steeped in glory, melodrama and gothic gloom.

The fact that ‘Heimgesucht’ opens the album not with searing blastbeats but a sparse melody, framed by stabs of synth and the rhythmic clip-clop of hoof and carriage on cobbled streets, is a shining example of how Aara have a flair for detail, subtly building up a scene before unleashing all their fury. It makes the eventual rush of tremolo and blastbeaten fury hit with a sense of purpose than transcends brutality. The melodies are simple but moving, the kind that stir fading memories and with the harsh, icy shriek of Fluss propelling them on, they add a narrative component that proves to be strikingly diverse as the album progresses.

The choral elements of Aara have played a large part in Triade’s effectiveness thus far but on ‘Moribunda’ they are inescapably effective. Paired with some of Nyx’s most elegiac melodies, the result is a dreamlike haze of sound and fury, caught somewhere between the cries of the damned and the gentle beckon of the blessed, a cunning reflection of Melmoth’s final cursed state. ‘Unstern’ follows a similar route but the riffing is more leaden, a doom-laden stomp to the gallows that nonetheless bristles with defiance as Berg unloads one sweeping arpeggio after another. Compositionally, Nyx’s six offerings tread a fine line between complexity and clarity. Aara have always pushed layering within their music, balancing searing tremolo with piercing and often beautiful countermelodies to create an eerie sense of unease, and each cut here seeks to perfect their methods. Berg injects melodies in such a way that they seem to transfix the gloom, sharp rays of sunlight cutting through the tempest that rages everywhere else, and allowing for a flow that feels a little bit more involved than black metal normally delivers.

It’s often a toss-up for whether the opening chapter or the final one is the hardest, and while Aara haven’t exactly made Triade’s conclusion sound easy, they have demonstrated that focus, talent and ambitious can come together and create something grand. It’s one of those records that transcends its genre because it never really sought to be part of it. Instead, it’s a rich slice of gothic drama that just so happens to sound like a bloody great atmospheric black metal record and in bringing Melmoth’s journey to an end, they’ve hopefully paved the way for whatever doubtless impressive step will come next.

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