Ars Notoria - Chronicles

“Chronicles” is the debut full length from French solo Death Metal band Ars Notoria. Headed by Antoine Grasser since 2017 who has been part of other acts like Beyond the Void, which was formed more recently, listeners are going to get a bit more of technical side of what they’ve heard from Grasser in the past and compared to other projects he has been in. Ars Notoria is definitely in the Decapitated vein of things from the way the riffs are structured and the pattern of the drums and vocals, but each track on the debut is hard, fast, and will probably remind listeners of the “Organic Hallucinations” era with little room for atmospheric interlude or fillers. Right off ‘Headspit’ one is greeted with a flurry of riffs and programmed drums (they are programmed well enough they can be mistaken for live) with a mix of deep growls and some layered roars. The vocals are probably the strongest part of the album altogether as Grasser has a whole slew of guests who try to deliver several different tones rather than the one sided grunt or bellow a lot of bands go for, though he did not do any the vocals himself.

Guitar work is fantastic track after track- no doubt this guy knows what he is doing. One gets the Origin style riffs on a track like ‘Save The Book’ and then there are the more of the jazzier Rivers Of Nihil moments on the engaging instrumental ‘King’s Crow.’ The instrumental tracks (there are 2) really showcase the guitar and bass work best as with the production as clear as it is, all parts of the music seem to have equal footing so some parts get lost compared to others. Vocally, the album does its best to showcase a variety of death metal voices. Some like on ‘Headspit’ are fantastic featuring Gautheir Ressel of Toward the Throne, and then others such as on ‘Compel’ are hit or miss. The guitar work on this track is groove laden and enjoyable, but vocally it sounds rough and almost tired in grunts from Christophe Remy of Vorhees, sometimes how Chris Barnes of Six Feet Under has sounded on later albums. And then there are tracks like ‘Triggered’ that layer the deeper growls and higher pitched snarls Michael Crass Da Silva of Crass does so well that they can sound like some of the better Glen Benton vocals from his time with Vital Remains. There are even some ‘clean’ vocals on ‘Obey’ from the rather unknown Adrien Dequesnes which tend to clash with the rest of what he has laid down so far, but they add variety to the music nonetheless.

Solos have never been a problem for Grasser, either here with Ars Notoria or his other projects, and tracks like the instrumental ‘Melt’ demonstrate that best. Again, still very Decapitated centered, but then again that seems to be the base foundation of the music structure compared to all the other tracks. Overall, ‘Chronicles’ is an engaging Tech Death album from start to finish with plenty of great guitar moments while trying at the same time not to make this come off as a ‘guitar focused’ album or even a instrumental focused album. Vocals here play an intricate part in most tracks and deliver in a manner that won’t make listeners want to skip them because they are too rough or one sided. Drumming despite programming still sounds engaging and not as monotonous as some might compare to an early Xasthur album with the use of a drum machine. Hopefully Grasser will continue with this project amongst his others and explore other Tech Death options while still sticking to the roots of his past projects.

4 / 5 STARS

1. Headspit
2. Save The Book
3. Ashes
4. Compel
5. King’s Crow
6. Triggered
7. Obey
8. Melt
9. Wide Open