I've said it once, and I'll say it again. I am so very fortunate to be living in an area with a thriving metal scene. In the past few years, incredible bands from almost every sub-genre of "core" have been popping up and gaining very sizable fanbases. Melodic hardcore (Counterparts), progressive metalcore (Structures), you name it and we've probably got it in Southern Ontario. Another band from this area that has a good chance of obtaining the same accomplishments as the aforementioned bands is the four-piece progressive metalcore act, Auras. Their first release, Panacea, is set to release on January 12th and it's something that shouldn't go unnoticed.
"Emerge" starts off the EP in a familiar way with an instrumental intro. Usually, I find these to be somewhat pointless and I think that if a band wants to have a minute-long instrumental introduction to the release, they may as well just include that on the first track. However, in Auras' case, they pull it off and make "Emerge" a meaningful track by writing some very groovy riffs and melodic leads that build anticipation. Next up is the previously released "Sciolist". "Sciolist" is loaded with groove-laden riffs, hard-hitting and technical drumming, and excellent vocals (provided by two of Auras' members and The Afterimage's Kyle), but it's just the tip of the iceberg. Following "Sciolist" is "Aporia". Everything about "Aporia" is impressive, but my favourite part is the second half of the song. The electronic break sets up the resulting solo perfectly. After the solo, the song goes out with a bang. One guitarists strums some groovy riffs that are reminiscent of Volumes and the other picks ambient melodies, all the while the vocalist provides the listener with some more excellent lows.
The next three tracks are titled "Chimerical", "Susurrus", and "Cascade". "Susurrus", an instrumental that splits up the other two tracks, serves as a nice break from the monstrous vocals and crushing instrumentals. The re-recorded versions of "Chimerical" and "Cascade" went through a few minor changes (the vocals are much stronger, "Cascade" no longer features cleans and is slightly lengthier), but most notably, they sound much cleaner and even more crisp than most well-known signed bands - which brings me to my next point. Production-wise, everything about Panacea is incredible, too. The guitarists chose an excellent tone, the drumming is very crisp, and while the bass isn't extremely audible, you can hear it if you pay close attention.
After "Cascade" fades out with some effects, the title track comes in as those effects are completely fading out. "Panacea" is probably the heaviest and most groovy and melodic song on the EP, which makes it an obvious choice for my personal favourite. There are so many twists and turns in "Panacea", but it flows seamlessly - even the brief piano interlude, which is eventually accompanied by syncopated chugs. After more soaring leads and immaculate vocals, the EP comes to a close on a high note with extremely calming ambience.
Auras has improved drastically as a band since I came across them about a year ago, and it's extremely easy to hear that when you compare the old versions of "Chimerical" and "Cascade" with the ones heard on this release. It's very early in the year (obviously), but Panacea is already an obvious contender for my EP of 2013 because there's so much variety in its 23-minute playtime. If you're a fan of Periphery, Volumes, or Auras' compatriots in Structures and The Afterimage, you WILL love this EP, and I urge you to give this band your ears and support.