Grey Aura are a two-man Dutch band who have recorded a massive debut album, a double-record entitled Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort that was initially self-released on Bandcamp and will now be released in June by the astute Finnish label Blood Music, both digitally and in a remarkable 2-CD set housed in a 60-page hardback book with foil-stamped printing.
Now, you may have already heard something about this unusual and tremendously ambitious album. In fact, if you have long memories, you may have heard about it here at NCS, because I wrote about two of the songs when they were first released for streaming in late 2014. Yes, this has been in the works for a long time, but when you understand more about the nature and scope of the project, you’ll understand why so much time has been invested in it. And so here’s the context of this album — followed by our premiere of yet another song: “Ijshoek“.
Waerachtighe… is an epic-length concept album about a piece of history that itself rises to the level of the epic. It’s based on the story of Dutch explorer Willem Barentsz (c. 1550 – 1597), for whom the Barents Sea is named, who tried finding a northeastern passage to Asia. On his third and final attempt in 1596, Barentsz and his crew got stuck in the ice near the mysterious, desolate island of Novaya Zemlya. The crew was forced to construct a home made of driftwood and parts of their ship in order to survive the harsh Arctic — and suffered in extreme ways before the survivors managed to find a way out of their peril, though Barentsz himself did not survive the voyage home.
The Arctic researcher Nikolas Sellheim wrote the foreword to Grey Aura’s album, and in a recently published essay he touched on the connection between metal music and the Arctic. Here is an excerpt from that essay that’s well worth reading — in part because it explains the title of Grey Aura’s album:
“The black metal band Grey Aura released an album with the title Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort in 2014. While the title appears difficult to ascribe to polar exploration for the untrained in polar history, the band utilised the journal of Dutch officer Gerrit de Veer, who accompanied Willem Barents on two of his Arctic voyages. It is thus that the title translates into ‘True descriptions of three sea voyages, stranger than anything ever heard before.’
“The band thus aims to conceptually and musically capture Barents’ journey into the Arctic, which for the musicians is a ‘story about courage, fear, hope and death’ within a context of patriotism. Underlined by audio drama-like sound effects and dialogues, polar exploration links with the ‘cold’ of black metal as the genre is able to express ‘the fear, cold and loneliness the crew of the Windhond experienced’. For Grey Aura an historical source thus serves as the main source of inspiration, screened through a lens of courage, fear, hope and death and wrapped into a musical cloak.”
Grey Aura reportedly spent three years writing, planning, and recording the album (whose lyrics are in Dutch), and then another year writing the words and planning layouts for the hardback book that will encase the CDs, a process that included selecting historical photographs and collaboration with artist and painter Thomas Knopper, whose artwork also accompanies the text. The complete album spans an hour and a half of music.
And now a brief introduction to “Ijshoek“. There’s a slow, swinging cadence to the song’s beginning, with bounding guitar notes and a jabbing riff. But the intensity of the music increases as caustic vocals emerge along with a rippling tremolo melody. The song moves between scathing, abrasive gales and that almost carnival-like dance, and there’s a somber quality to the atmosphere of the music, even though it also conveys a sense of yearning and perhaps even hopefulness. It also gets stuck in your head the more you hear it.
The special physical edition of Waerachtighe… will be released by Blood Music on June 3 and is available for pre-order now, at this location:
2. Naar het noorden
6. De wind blies
8. De kust van Nova Zembla
1. Een bevriezende zee
2. Tussenspel I: Vorst
3. Het Behouden Huys
4. Monotonie en isolatie
7. Tussenspel II: Een open zee
10. Nu alle troost ontbrak
Below, you can partake of “Ijshoek”. And in case you missed the previous premiere last month of the song “Bedrog” at Invisible Oranges, or the earlier debuts of “Naar het noorden” and “De kust van Nova Zembla”, I’ve included those below as well.