To make matters worse black metal has some of the worst exposure around here. Sure, people have heard of less than great acts such as Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child (surprisingly no-one has really heard Satyricon even after they went “black ‘n roll”). I was shocked when I found two kids in my graduating class listening to Emperor and 1349, though still mainstream as far as black metal concerns, but nonetheless, leagues better than the former acts. In fact in my hometown with a population of nearly 40,000 I have only met two locals with the same knowledge of metal music as myself; one of which being someone I got into the genre, the other, a librarian who used to work for a progressive rock catalog.
It goes without saying; the limited exposure has its effects on the local bands. We have a handful of melodic death metal acts that aren’t bad in their own right, but upon listening you just see a B-Rate version of their favorite acts, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and occasionally Opeth. Then you have some thrash bands that sound like midtempo versions of early Metallica; nothing more than barroom music. And don’t even give the metalcore bands a chance; you’ll only torture yourself doing so. We do have a decent collection of Jazz Rap, Progressive Rock and Jam Bands if you’re open minded to those genres, but metal doesn’t really have any gems around here, unless you commute about an hour to major cities like Boston and Lowell, where you’ll find some decent if not very good acts. With black metal being one of the least exposed subgenres around here, dare I attempt to find a solid black metal act?
Surprise, surprise! A friend randomly told me about an act called, Aura of Aquila when discussing USBM, so I figured I’d check them out. Not only is it a real black metal band, but a very unique one that has a wicked nice sound, that is genuinely organic. I immediately went to Encyclopaedia Metallum to see if there’s any information on this act, and find out they are from Danvers, Massachusetts, a neighboring town within walking distance from my house. I marked out like a prepubescent girl at a Justin Bieber concert. The same friend sent me a copy of their 2006 demo, “...Amidst Terrifying Silence,” and I was hooked. The production quality was perfect; low-fidelity but very decipherable. The lead guitars are beautifully inspired by blues rock, while the blast beats and vocals add a great depressive atmosphere. There is also a lot of clean guitar and vocal work that adds a nice touch to the release. Hell, I don’t know why but it really does feel like it has local flavor to it, but in the best possible way.
I’m already five paragraphs into this, so before I go on a huge rant about how awesome the experience is, I’ll cut myself short and say this is a band you should really look out for. They deserve a lot more publicity than they have, which is why I came in contact with Jim Joyce the band’s guitarist and vocalist to set up an interview about the band and other projects he’s involved in.
The Werkshed: Jim, thank you for giving us the privilege to have this interview. First, could you let the readers know, about your earliest experiences playing music?
Jim Joyce: My earliest experience in playing music was really just finding an acoustic guitar with a few strings left on it and deciding to make some noise on it and record it....apparently not a lot has changed ha.
WS: What was the first album you purchased?
JJ: I think the first album i ever bought was Load from Metallica. They really caught my interest when i first heard them.
WS: As I mentioned in the foreground, black metal isn’t very well established in the area. How did you end up discovering this subgenre?
JJ: I was going through one of the many transition periods life throws at you and the drummer for Aura, Kilty showed me some bands and I fell quickly in love with the emotion of the genre.
WS: Was it difficult finding the right band mates for AoA? How did you guys end up forming?
JJ: Kilty and I started the band and went through a couple of singers and bassists. I wasn't originally supposed to sing for the band but we couldn't find someone on the same page as us so i decided just to sing. Bassists in black metal are all but nonexistent.
WS: How did you guys decide on the name Aura of Aquila?
JJ: We were looking at a map of constellations and came across one of an eagle called Aquila which stuck out to us. Not sure why we decided on Aura but it all seemed to fit pretty well.
WS: What other projects are you currently involved in and could you tell us a bit about them? Do you have any forthcoming acts you’d like to share with us?
JJ: I am currently in a Metallica tribute called Master of Beers, and an original progressive band called Autumn Above. You can pick up our first CD at Newbury Comics. And I am sort of in the process of starting a few more projects, probably a black or folk metal thing.
WS: Who are some of your biggest influences musically for this project? What about for your other projects?
JJ: The biggest influence for the band was really just life events. It was personally a very difficult time in my life and it sort of reflecting in the music how i felt as a person at the time.
WS: What inspires you as far as lyrical content? Do your lyrics reflect your ideals and daily rituals?
JJ: The lyrics are pure emotion. I tend to not write any music or lyrics unless i have something i need to get out. I can't speak for the songs Kilty wrote though.
WS: For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe the band?
JJ: Harsh, but hopeful.
WS: What would you say separates you from other black metal acts, especially as far as United States bands? Possibly on the contrary what makes Aura of Aquila a band that fans of the scene would like?
JJ: Not sure what would separate us from other bands. Probably just not giving a shit what anyone thought of what we were doing. Really we were doing it because we needed to for ourselves.
WS: Since the band’s formation in 2006, we’ve seen an EP, a split release and a full-length each coming out a year apart from 2006-2008. Could you tell us about the experience creating these releases? Also what was it like working with the New Hampshire based, Unknown Kadath on the split?
JJ: "...Amidst Terrifying Silence" came along very quickly. I believe we were a band for only a few months until all those songs were written. I did all the bass and guitars. The split didn't take long either, We had plenty of material at the time, some of which never made it to tape. "Ghostly Evening Light" was a bit more difficult. It was the first time we recorded with a bassist (Zak Nicastro) and I was moving during the time we were recording it. It ended up taking a lot longer than anticipated. I only met the guy from Unknown Kadath once, we tended to be on our own and talking to him through the internet so it was sort of a no issue.
WS: Have you ever experienced writer’s block while working on releases? If so how do you combat it?
JJ: I haven't ever found a way to get through writers block. I usually try and write something then scrap it a few hours later because it sounds terrible and I'm not feeling it.
WS: Where can fans purchase your releases?
JJ: Most of the stuff is out of print I have copies of GEL still which they would have to talk to me directly to receive one. I have briefly talked to a few people who would like to redistribute some of the material which I think will happen in the future.
WS: Do you guys perform live?
JJ:We don't preform live. We did for a while it proved not to be the audience and outlet we wanted for our music.
WS: If you could perform a dream gig, where would it be and what other bands past or present would you like to perform with you?
JJ: I'm not sure. Probably just and outdoors gig in the fall with some good friends and lots of campfires.
WS: What is a typical day in the life of Jim Joyce like? Do you have any interesting hobbies, work life, a family?
JJ: Just living day to day finding the things in life that keep me going. Just like everyone else does.
WS: In your opinion what are some of the most overrated bands in metal? On the contrary name some bands that you think deserve a larger following than they have.
JJ: Everybody will have there own opinion on either of these. The Overrated bands we all know them, they flood masses with there terrible chugging riffs.
WS: What country/region do you consider the “Metal Mecca” of the world?
JJ: England would probably be the “Metal Mecca” just for basically birthing the entire metal genre. Everyone else just took there own spin on it.
WS: If you’re not listening to metal, what other genres do you enjoy? Are there any specific bands/artists that you enjoy?
JJ: If im not listening to metal its basically just various rock genres; from the Misfits to Flogging Molly.
WS: What does the future hold for both Aura and yourself? Is there a new album we should be anticipating? Do you have a goal for how far you want the band to go?
JJ: I dont know the future of the band. We haven't talked about anything new in a long time, pretty much just being on an indefinite hiatus. If there will ever be new material, I couldn't say yes or no. I will be releasing more stuff with different project that fans of Aura may enjoy.
WS: You’ve been great, so I’ll let you conclude this interview with any final notes you want the readers to know.
JJ: Thanks for listening, and thanks for being so patient with the delay of this interview.
You can also check out Aura of Aquila’s myspace page at: http://www.myspace.com/auraofaquila
Or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by; Matt Coughlin