#AroOra The Twelfth Hour

3 min read

Band: Aro Ora
Title: The Twelfth Hour
Label: Independent
Release Date: 22 March 2024
Country: France
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream

Combining death metal, hardcore, melody, progressive elements, and atmospherics, France’s Aro Ora returns five years after their debut album, Wairua, with The Twelfth Hour and manages to make all these potentially disparate elements gel.

From the opening track “A People Defiled”, the intent of the band is clear with instantly pummelling drums that hint at the polyrhythms of Meshuggah, chunky riffing, and half-barked, half-screamed vocals from singer Quentin Dabouis (a relatively new addition to the band). The sound is modern and crisp, but still powerful. This high-impact, heavy introduction smoothly transitions into a more melodic chorus, where Dabouis showcases his more melodic (though still gritty) vocal range.

These elements, plus the socially-aware lyrics of bassist Clément Douam give an outline of what The Twelfth Hour is all about. As Douam states, “It’s an album that deals with social struggle, privilege, death and love in struggle.” The album’s second track, “To Die A Pacifist”, for example, grapples with ethical questions of tolerance and intolerance in the face of war. Musically, the stomping, chromatic intro brings to mind Morbid Angel filtered through the dour, hard rock of Alice In Chains. Here and elsewhere there’s a flavour of Linkin Park in the melodic sections and the overall production, but quite a bit heavier.

Throughout the album, the band’s penchant for brutalising, riffing, welded to catchy hooks in the choruses works, partly because they don’t try to make such a hard line between the two. Dabouis’ vocals are impressive throughout, showing more versatility than just alternating between harsh and clean singing. He roars, he screams, he growls and in the more melodic parts, there’s still enough grit and gravel in his delivery to keep the intensity levels high.

Indeed, there are no weak links in the playing, but particular credit also needs to go to drummer Quentin Regnault, who doesn’t just bring power to every track, but a never-ending procession of fills, transitioning rhythms, and inventive touches. On a couple of tracks (“Tragically Numb” and “Unsung Heros”) the death metal pummelling starts to get a bit wearying, but even in these moments, Regnault is to the rescue with some neat, off-kilter rhythms.

At 43 minutes The Twelfth Hour is not an especially long album, but as mentioned above it has a few moments where it starts to drag. Thankfully, the band has enough variety and versatility to pull an unexpected twist out of their collective hat just when you think you’ve got them figured out.

“In Sheer Luck Lays No Hazard” opens with glacial, post-rock guitars and a cool staccato sequence at two minutes in. There’s more memorable (and eerie) staccato guitars that build in “Equal In The Sequel”. “Long Live” provides a welcome boost in the back half, with some of the album’s most atmospheric parts and a glistening, recurring guitar line that somehow brings to mind Coldplay (don’t let that put you off!). To be sure the track has its heavier passages, but there’s also a very melodic strain going through it that could be compared to Deftones.

None of the band’s mentioned here would in themselves do justice in fully describing The Twelfth Hour. Aro Ora does evoke a lot of different associations, but even as they jump from one mood, tone, and aesthetic to another there’s a continuity to the album that gives it its own particular identity. Modern, powerful, heavy, inventive, and melodic. 8/10 Tom Osman

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