Friday, March 12, 2010

Priest = Aura



Coming on the heels of 1990's disappointingly polished and emptily refined 'Gold Afternoon Fix', 1992's 'Priest = Aura' was a dramatic turnaround for veteran Goth-rockers The Church. This masterwork saw the band immersing themselves fully in the cabalistic, murky waters of psychedelic rock and coming up with an original, if admittedly leftfield work of art. Its songs were decidedly surreal, akin to cryptic snapshots taken in some otherworldly landscape found only in LSD-induced nightmares. It was undoubtedly an incongruous album to release during the supremacy of grunge in the early 1990s, but in retrospect, it might well be The Church's strongest work.

The epic sprawl of the title track (vaguely about a soldier's wanderings in a distant war-torn land) made for a great opener to the album, setting the pace for the arcane, unsettling atmosphere to follow. 'Ripple' followed, a nervous, shadowy invocation of a merciless femme fatale, anchored by trademark Church jangly-guitar riffs and Kilbey's almost somnambulant vocals. The haunted-house tale of 'Lustre' was marked by monstrous snare drums and a throbbing bass line, while the deceptively gentle waltz-time 'Swan Lake' detailed a hellish family life with unflinching candour. Some succour came in the form of the soothing mid-tempo dance groove of 'Feel', but soon the sense of unease takes over again, in the whimsical but highly disturbing English music-hall chanting of 'The Disillusionist', whose titular character is "famous from the waist down, but the top half of his body is a corpse". Things finally end with the menacing, frenzied turmoil of 'Chaos', which lasted for a staggering ten minutes, collapsing into an utter mess at the end in an insane explosion of over-the-top guitar feedback. An astonishing, well-crafted record that could well be The Church's indisputable magnum opus.

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