Metal continues to bring the noise. Trends roll onward, flavors and styles — even careers — rise and fall with the next assault of hashtags and viral clips. Yet metal, in all of its glorious, dimed-out, misanthropic splendor, refuses to die. Along with its equally aggro sibling, noise, metal perpetually reinvents and sustains itself on the strengths of a community that is as ardently protective of the music as it is indifferent to the general population’s acknowledgment, let alone acceptance, of a scene that’s inherently defiant. While the roots dig deep, and are surely tethered to protean metal gods like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, its tendrils are now connected through myriad offshoots. Black metal, thrash, even (good Lord) Christian metal, in the past four decades the music has mutated into a heady mix of styles and scenes. But like much of the best things in art, the real gems are uncovered when you dig deep.
Case in point — Auric. The four-piece from Fayetteville, Arkansas are indicative of the quality of the current underground metal scene. With an average age of 21, the band — Erik Ebsen (guitar/vocals), Mitchell Fenex (guitar/vocals), Mason Gills (bass), and Logan West (drums/vocals) — Auric are on the vanguard of contemporary metal. But age aside, their latest album, Empty Seas, is an impressive collection of songs ranging from the lurching “Husks,” to album-closer “Rib Cage Prison,” a 12-minute epic of melodic shifts and skull-rattling drones.
Auric describes their sound as “progressive sludge metal,” which is a fitting label. In lieu of blast beats, de rigueur drop tunings, demonic “cookie monster” vocals, and other signifiers of much extreme metal, Auric aren’t afraid to drop in melodious passages in the middle of their impressive metallic wallop. Their real strengths lie in knowing that subtleties are key. In lieu of a volley of arpeggios and blinding two-four beats, Auric realizes that one sonorous chord and static beat can multiply the damage.
The band is currently in the middle of a 23-date tour, their first ever, that will take them from the East Coast to Texas. Local metalheads can check out Auric’s personal take on metal overload this Friday, July 22, with openers Unearthly Child and Saturnine at Shantytown Pub.
Folio Weekly Magazine checked in with the band spokesman West during a tour stop in Baton Rouge.
Folio Weekly Magazine: Since you’re out on the road for your first tour, playing these shows, crashing on couches, and being in the middle of the community, what is your take on the current underground metal scene?
Logan West: You know, it’s real DIY right now. Even some of the bigger bands still want to play 100-capacity DIY spots. And one thing I’ve noticed is that everyone is really nice, especially with the slower, down-tuned, sludgy stuff, it’s really a supportive scene.
On your Bandcamp page, you describe yourselves as being “progressive sludge metal.” What are some of the elements in your sound that you think bear that out?
Well, I think that we try to throw a riff in there for everybody. So we’ll do some black metal stuff, and I think in terms of “progressive” of things like Mastodon and Baroness, where you mix sludge with guitar harmonies.
When you say “progressive,” is that a tip of the hat to older, heavier prog rock from the ’70s, like King Crimson or Magma?
Oh, yeah. I love King Crimson. A couple of us really love the Mars Volta. So we definitely try to throw in some of those sounds into the mix.
The songs on Empty Seas are generally fairly long. Did you all initially start out playing more of a faster, blast-beat style and then gradually begin exploring longer song structures?
When we started out, we were probably 14 or 15 years old and we sounded like something like Between the Buried and Me and Gojira, and some of those faster bands. So we have those fast, technical roots, but it’s like we had to get that out of our system. But the new music started getting into some more heavy shit and it became more developed over the years.
From the outside looking in, what do you think are some of the greatest misconceptions about this realm and style of metal?
Oh, I don’t know. Maybe people think this kind of metal is sleek but still has some kind of dirty edge. But who knows? We’re just a bunch of goofball fuckin’ kids from Arkansas. We don’t really have any friends. We just hang out and play music.