Augury – Fragmentary Evidence (2009)
This is definitely some A-list material here, especially if you’re into the more arcane and progressive side of death metal. People have often complained about the more technical bands (like Necrophagist and Brain Drill) being all complicated pyrotechnical guitar stunts and no real songwriting, and Augury thankfully avoids that trap by writing ambitious material.
Instrumentally, Augury is defined by melodic, fast paced riffs, and shrewd listeners will note heavy jazz overtones (especially on such things as the almost funky introduction to “Simian Cattle”), and the occasional bit of European-styled folk music mixed in. Said folk aspects were more important on “Concealed”, which came out all the way back in 2004, and are generally limited to the sung vocals on here. Those are difficult to describe – one could say they’re half-harsh, in that they’re more abrasive than your average singing (think Lemmy of Mötorhead), but they’re very tonal, so it balances out in a way. Backing those up are a variety of death growls, a weird slurping sound halfway through “Aetheral”, and a few female singers guesting from such bands as Unexpect on “Brimstone Landscapes”. Essential to these songs is Dominic “Forest” Lapointe, the bassist. For a metal album, his basslines are very prominent, and occasionally take the lead. Considering that many bassists are relegated to the land of “follow the guitars at a relative -12 dB”, this is refreshing.
All this creative, technical instrumentation would be useless if it wasn’t backed up by strong compositions. Generally, things are fairly concise, clocking in at about 5 minutes per song, although the band occasionally stretches things out. Songs have a variety of riffs, most of which are technical-sounding and generally alternate between typical death metal chromaticism, or melodic, high speed phrases. Specifically, this band excels in their use of dynamics – while they have the obvious softer, acoustic driven sections and loud, blastbeat driven portions, phrases are contoured expertly to create and dispel tension/aggression even within a riff, or clusters of riffs. This, too, is fairly underdone in metal – we see intentional repetition, we see narrative songwriting, but a strong sense of dynamics is what separates the chaff from the wheat. Mercyful Fate had it, Metallica had it (even when they started overextending on Master of Puppets they still had good songwriting), Immolation still has it, and Augury definitely knew what they were doing when they wrote and recorded this album. If this album has any significant flaw, it’s that riffs, when examined in isolation occasionally descend into confusion and end up sounding weak, but when viewed in context, even the weak riffs work.
Highlights: “Simian Cattle”, “Jupiter to Ignite”, “Brimstone Landscapes”