Get in the car, we’re headed for a road trip. Not to the Fjords of Norway, the rainforests of Brazil, or the storied shores of Greece. No, we’re headed to the desert of the western United States, and we’re cranking this album on the way.
Aridus is a new project designed by Galen Baudhuin from Grave Chalice, Street Tombs and the live lineup of Wolves in the Throne Room. He apparently felt inspired to make this most dark and bleak black metal offering upon his return to his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Having resided in New England for several years, his re-entry to the desert had a profound effect on him, and thus served as his artistic muse.
While he hasn’t created a new style here, his chosen style of raw black metal is certainly evocative and effective. He’s brought together all the classic elements here: catchy tremolo-riffs, reverb-heavy vocals, and a mix of crushing and flowing rhythms. Stylistically, the album plays like America’s answer to Nahtrunarhaunting black metal with a contemplative edge and a production master that makes the music bang out of your speakers with intense power and purpose.
Pay particular attention to songs like “Bearer of Silence,” where Galen weaves eerie guitar work and plodding drums to create an almost cinematic soundscape. It’s all about the dramatic tension, the buildup to the final crescendo. This is the song that plays just before the big shootout, when all the main characters are making their final plans and preparations.
The album’s six songs fit together nicely in this dramatic narrative, as the straightforward rippers like “Serpent Moon” and “Reptilian Sleep” provide the shots for the chasers of atmospheric songs like the outro “The Infinite Corridor.” (Though I can’t help but wonder if that song title is a reference to the Castlevania animated series … totally cool if it is!)
But if you’re looking for a pure fist-pumping metal song, just go ahead and crank up “Spectre of Despair.” I’m a big fan of the beats on this one, along with the intense palm-muted riffs. It’s one of those songs that makes you do the “ugly face” and make the goblet-holding motion with your hands. Again, the production pulls it all together with the excellent balance of force and ambiance.
So while it’s not an earth-shattering record, it’s a rad entry into the black metal canon that comes from the artist’s encounter with nature, his past, and the future we all face. It’s a future quite like the desert itself, all ashes and dust for eternity.