*This is part of our State Of The Art series, showcasing bands every Monday from the featured State*
This month’s State is Washington!
New month, new state. Minnesota was the 32nd state added to the United States in 1858. Known also as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, it is bordered to the north by Canada, North and South Dakota to the west, Iowa to the south, Wisconsin and Lake Superior to the east. With a population of about 5.5 million covering 86,939 square miles, Minnesota boasts one of the highest standards of living and among the best-educated and wealthiest states in the U.S. Definitely not necessarily snobby and uptight based on the overwhelming amount of good Metal bands available for this month’s spotlights. I would like to start with a band hailing from Woodbury, just east of the state capital of St. Paul called Aurae. This band gives us all a very bright hope for the future of our beloved Metal genre.
Pronounced “Or Eye”, Aurae was conceived and brought to fruition by a group of very talented, mostly high-school aged guys. That’s right. High school. As in “under 18”. Are you freaking kidding me?!? These young gentleman began their quest in the Fall of 2012 to create “ambient soundscapes, sharp guitar playing, driving beats and entrancing melodies [and] plan to push the boundaries of contemporary music and breathe new life into the scene.” Big words, but from the onset, Aurae have been HUGE supports of their contemporaries, even going out of their way to write and share weekly profiles about local bands that have grabbed their attention. This alone deserves an enormous amount of respect for these young men since they see that promoting the entire scene grows it for everyone, including themselves and gains them friends as everyone grows. Many “bigger” bands could take some notes from this band. Bravo guys! Much respect! Once formed, the band went through a number of changes before settling into the current lineup of James Kunau and Chris Zywicki on guitars, Zack Hagstrom-Skalnek on drums, Niko Hasapopoulos on bass, Dallas Baldwin on vocals and Taylor Schultz on keyboards. With an extensive list of influences from The Contortionist, Fallujah, Last Chance to Reason, Animals As Leaders, Scale the Summit, Tesseract, Periphery, Devin Townsend, Uneven Structure, Between the Buried and Me, Skyharbor, Born of Osiris, The Human Abstract and The Faceless, it should be obvious that Aurae’s music is in the contemporary, Progressive/djent side of things but add beautiful ambiance and even saxophone, thanks to Lee Tran, into the mix to make their trademarked brand of Metal unique and a standout among giants. Guitars, while down-tuned, are Mathy, riffy and strong, without being overpowering in any certain direction. Solos and bridges are sharp and catchy but not trying hard to push too far into the realms of Technical Death. Also interesting, is the use of bass to drop the sound uber-low instead of depending on extended range guitars to punch large holes in the atmosphere. Again, these guys are forging their own paths; the norm be damned. Drums follow the bass lead and come up just shy of the all too common beat blasting and provide a solid foundation for the rest of the band to express their musical talents. Keyboards were added later in Aurae’s evolution and provide a depth and tapestry of sound that is often ignored on this end of the musical spectrum. Very, very interesting and give them long legs to head off into whatever direction their vision leads. Forward thinking for sure. Finally, the vocals. Where do I start? Dallas has pipes for days. From cleans rivaling that of Bono and Michael Lessard to growls that are deep, powerful and always lyrically clear, he can do it all. Another real star right here. Aurae works beautifully as a band and definitely give Metal a very bright future! Encouraging to old guys like me and altering my perception on the next generation of musicians. Love the music; love what these guys stand for!
Aurae has one EP entitled Paths Aligned that was released in early 2015 containing “Sanctuary”, “Promethean”, “Clairvoyant”, “Cross the Threshold”, “Flux” and “Clarity” and a re-recorded, upgraded version of “Cross the Threshold” released earlier this year. Production, electronics, mixing, mastering and recording for the EP was done to absolute perfection by Ben Drake and followed by Jamie King on the re-recording. Professional at all levels that assure no garage band, tinny sound coming from many debuts. They recently played their first headlining show but have already shared the stage with large touring acts like I the Breather, Toothgrinder, Reflections, Arch Enemy, Born of Osiris, Veil of Maya, The Aracia Strain, Obscura, After the Burial, Beyond Creation, Cattle Decapitation among others. Pretty killer resume, huh? At this rate Aurae should be able to make quite a name for themselves and their scene pretty quickly. Aurae has a lot to look forward to and a lot to be proud of. My hat’s off to these young men!
All artwork by Alex Hofmann