AN NCS ALBUM PREMIERE (AND A REVIEW): APTERA — “YOU CAN’T BURY WHAT STILL BURNS”
The lyrical themes of Aptera‘s debut album You Can’t Bury What Still Burns (which is set for imminent release by Ripple Music) leap across millennia, from legends of ancient Greek mythology to modern-day race-based murder at the hands of police and personal resistance against daily experiences of repression. What ties these time-spanning topics together is a through-line of anger and defiance, of rebellion and revenge, of refusal to be silenced and at times a call for violent resistance. It’s no wonder, then, that the album’s cover art, like its title, embodies a burning refusal to be buried and silenced.
This Berlin-based quartet’s interest in Greek mythology as a vehicle for some of their lyrical themes is also reflected in the name they chose for themselves, which was the site of a battle between the Sirens and the Muses, where the Sirens lost their wings and were cast into the sea. “Joining the sirens and muses at the table,” as the press materials recount in a further summation of the narratives, “are a coven of reanimated witch spirits and a gang of man-eating mermaids with a healthy appetite for destruction”.
We don’t know what came first, the lyrical themes or the music. But even if the band cooked up the riffs and rhythms before crafting the words, it seems obvious that the same spirit behind the lyrics fueled the music. The fires of rebellion unmistakably burn through both of them again and again, but the band’s music also doses the listener’s mind with hallucinatory vapors and ferries us into perilous supernatural realms.
Photo by Ruby Gold
Of course, rebellion and free-wheeling imagination have always been animating forces behind rock ‘n’ roll and all the musical genres that have branched out from it, and when you hear Aptera‘s music you’ll discover that they’ve pulled freely from many of those branches, fluidly but without inhibition. The album could be considered an electrifying spin through a big whirlpool of influences, the band’s own Charybdis lashing against the stone shoals of Scylla.
The most prominent genre ingredients (which span about six decades of musical history) are doom, sludge, psych, and thrash, but with doses of feral punk and classic heavy metal. Reference points like Black Sabbath, L7, Devil’s Blood, Neurosis, Candlemass, Messa, Mastodon, Electric Wizard, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Yob, and Danzig aren’t out of place.
In weaving together all these influences, the band rely on gut-punching bass lines, skull-cracking drum beats, riffs thicker than redwoods, evocative guitar harmonies, mind-bending solos, and an expansive vocal palette, both harsh and clean. They also demonstrate formidable song-writing skill, crafting tracks that are just as effective in changing moods as shaking bodies, and loading them up with vivid tempo changes and more hooks than you’ll find in a fishing trawler.
That’s probably inducement enough for you to jump down and run through the full album stream we’re presenting today, but we can’t resist the impulse to provide a more detailed preview of such an impressive and cathartic experience.
Photo by Ruby Gold
“Voice of Thunder” begins the trip with music that’s mid-paced and immediately body-moving, but then begins to eat up the pavement in a primal surge, all pistons pumping. Back and forth the momentum goes, propelled by a heavy-weight bass and spine-shaking drums. The burly riffing is menacing and marauding, and the soloing sounds like sorcery, while the vocals range in a fury from savage snarls to incendiary yells and flesh-shredding screams.
The songs twist and turn as you move from one to the next, and that’s immediately evident in the second track “Selkies“, a woozier and more narcotic experience than the opener, and one that brings into play the echoing vibrations of wailing, doom-spawned singing along with gritty, come-for-your-throat snarls — but it will also give your pulse-rate a swift kick. A witchy supernatural aura wafts around the song in its slower movements, especially when the soloing spirals and swirls, but it rocks out with a will too.
By contrast, “Mercury” is dreamlike and tormented, cloaked in shadow and steeped in poison and peril, but with its own groovesome punch and enthralling doses of psychoactive soloing, while visceral fury rises in “Unbearable Stain“, a song driven by fast, hammering drums, seething guitars, and bestial growls. Yet while the song is a big adrenaline injection, it’s also home to melancholy and anguished passages.
The changes continue with the sublime guitar instrumental that arrives under the name “Cosmosis“. In tones tuned to sound almost like violins, the guitars spin out a bright and beguiling spell over mid-paced beats that gradually hit harder and harder as the song’s overall intensity swells into a head-spinning acid jam that could have been birthed in the ’70s.
Photo by Ruby Gold
With “Days of Void“, the band saddle up another lumbering and weaving stoner-doom beast, and then periodically give it the spurs in rumbling gallops. Like its lyrical subject matter, “When the Police Murder” follows that in grim and grievous terms, creating an amalgam of sensations where tragedy and rage intersect and spill out with heart-piercing intensity. The rhythms will thrum your internal organs, and the vocals are both lacerating and haunting.
And finally, “Nephenthes” closes the album in frightening and heart-breaking fashion, drawing together vicious growled pronouncements, spectral singing that goes sky-high, thoroughly ominous chords, and spine-shaking hammer blows. The soloing is slow and stricken, much like the song as a whole, which becomes a magnificent doom anthem.
But the band don’t stay in the same lane (they almost never do on any of the songs), and instead they also punch the throttle into feverish, head-spinning delirium. However, they continually return to tugging at the listener’s heart-strings in soul-stirring fashion.
Credit for all this goes to women from Italy, Belgium, the US, and Brazil, who joined forces in Berlin in 2018: Michela Albizzati on guitars and vocals, Celia Paul (Arde) on bass and vocals, Sara Neidorf (ex-Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mellowdeath) on drums, and Renata Helm on guitar.
The album was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Jan Oberg at Hidden Planet Studio, and the evocative cover art was made by Brokesia Studio. Ripple Music will release it on June 17th, in CD, variant LP vinyl, and digital formats. You can (and should) pre-order now:
U.S. – https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search=aptera
World – https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/you-cant-bury-what-still-burns