Written by Kirk
Auralayer – Thousand Petals
> Progressive doom metal / stoner rock
> South Carolina, US
> Released July 14
> King Volume Records
I really don’t think we talk about this enough, but the turn of the 20th century was a really strange time. Most people were riding high on the sense of elation that the whole world had avoided the threat of complete and total financial ruin due to Y2K (only to find out it was on moratorium for about a decade or so, but that’s neither here nor there), but that sense of joy was short-lived. The events of September 11, 2001 occurred, which gave way to war in the Middle East and the beginning of a new form of totalitarianism in the United States. Dark times, my friends. Very dark times indeed.
But it also gave rise to new and innovative approaches to some of the oldest and most well-established styles of heavy metal. In 2001, the ashes of Damad gave birth to Savannah, Georgia’s psychedelic sludge titans Kylesa, who spent over a decade pushing the limits and our expectations of sludge metal. Two years later, born from the ashes of Johnny Welfare and the Paychecks and also based in Savannah, Georgia is Baroness, the progressive sludge outlet of John Dyer Baizley. At the same time, in Austin, Texas, the doom metal band The Sword was forged, blending the elements of heavy metal godfathers Black Sabbath with more modern metal luminaries like Sleep and Witchcraft. Now fast forward another year, we find ourselves in Miami, Florida for the birth of stoner sludge band Torche, who begged us all to ask, “What if sludge metal sounded like pop music?”
So, you’re probably asking yourself, “But what do these bands have in common?”. Why, thank you, reader! I’m glad you asked! Each of the bands I mentioned above—Kylesa, Baroness, The Sword, and Torche—were all part of a movement to resurrect and reevaluate the very roots of heavy metal. Each band stripped away the trappings of their respective genres and dissected them meticulously, finding every possible way to experiment with and expound upon them, limited only by their respective talent levels and the breadth of their imagination. And what they created in their wake is a newfound desire for bands to do the same—to strip away the pomp and circumstance of their music and turn it into something bold and new.
Sadly, we had to bid farewell to Kylesa, who have been on indefinite hiatus since 2016 (although Laura Pleasants has since been active with her new band, The Discussion, ever since), The Sword shut down their armory on October 20, 2022 in the wake of their reunion tour, and the flame went out for Torche after their tour with Meshuggah and In Flames ended on October 16, 2022. And while these stalwarts of merciless innovation are now referred to in the past tense, a host of new bands have continued to rise up the world over, burning with a desire to carry on the mission of their predecessors. One such band is Greenville, South Carolina’s Auralayer, who’s sound embodies influences both old and new. And their debut album, Thousand Petals, is truly a spectacle to behold.
Upon my first listen of Thousand Petals, I was immediately hit with a massive wave of Kylesa nostalgia. Granted, I became a fan of Kylesa right around the time they went on hiatus, so I missed out on all the excitement of tours and new releases coming out. So those notes of the Kylesa sound I was getting made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside (and not just in my eardrums); hard to say if it’s a direct or indirect result of having Phillip Cope on board as producer, which shall remain to be seen. But then, on subsequent listens, I find myself picking up other influences. They have Torche’s knack for taking a notoriously dense and heavy sub-genre of metal and injecting it with a healthy dose of pop finesse that makes their particular brand of progressive doom feel light and refreshing. Listen further, and you can hear influences of Baroness’ bombastic take on sludge (doom and sludge are cousins, after all) as well as their predilection for tight, focused riffs. And while Auralayer may not play doom as a thick and pungent as The Sword, they do tap into those early Black Sabbath influences. There’s a groove to the songs on Thousand Petals that is reminiscent of those classic Ozzy Osbourne era songs (not the heavy, dirge-like sections but the middle parts where the acid has clearly kicked in and everyone is dancing).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Here at Noob Heavy, we’re really big on focusing on what’s new in the world of heavy music. I mean, it’s literally in the name. And while we put a lot of emphasis on what’s new, we also maintain a healthy level of respect for the artists that have dedicated their careers to the continued evolution of heavy music over the last fifty-plus years. Auralayer have that same level of respect, paying homage to not only the beginnings of heavy metal but its future as well. Because they know that the only way to keep the future of heavy music alive is to connect the past with the future. And, as fans, it’s also important to remember that we can love the bands we grew up with and still appreciate changes and innovations new bands will continue to bring to the table. That’s what keeps this music so vibrant and fresh.