Recorded during 2021 in Oslo, New Orleans, Helsinki, Mostar, Trieste, Banja Luka, New York, Nurnberg, Pančevo, Montreal, Alicante, Kraljevo, Hamilton, Kragujevac, Sundsvall. Mixed by Fredrik Nordström at Studio Fredman, Gothenberg, Sweden. Mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios, Örebro, Sweden. Released on 1 September 2023.
Aortha (stylised as AORTHA) is a new metal project/band based in Oslo, Norway and founded by Predrag Glogovac. Monolit (2023) is their debut album.
Glogovac was previously in the former-Yugoslavian thrash metal band Monolit which was active between 1988 and 1992 until war tore the country apart and the band was forced to quit. Reuniting between 2006 and 2008, Monolit released one album, Arcana Balkanica (2008) on the Serbian record label One Records from Belgrade.
Moving to Norway, Glogovac has played with scores of metal musicians for many years. In 2020 with a healthy backlog of unreleased songs he started to gather old friends and musicians to create this Aortha project and this album named after his former band.
I love review submissions like this one. Triaging my 195 metal CDs email inbox last week, I came across an email from Predrag Glogovac kindly inviting me to review his new project’s forthcoming album. Of course! It somehow means a little more when it comes from the band themselves, no disrespect to PR companies—obviously, keep ’em coming too!
I quickly downloaded the mp3 files and fired them into MusicBee.
Oh. My. Word!
This album is astonishing! Not only is it packed with fine musicians, including a couple from two of my favourite bands (Voïvod and Tryptikon), the quality of the production, the mix and the songwriting is extraordinary.
Let’s get the comparisons out of the way first. Judas Priest. That’s what came to mind immediately on listening to this album for the first time. It has that same foot-to-the-metal, face-to-the-wall breakneck speed and cutting precision of Birmingham’s finest leather-clad purveyors of heavy metal. But then there’s elements of those female-fronted powerhouses of metal Arch Enemy, Nightwish, Halestorm, Within Temptation wrapped up in there too.
With each listen, I have appreciated something new, something deeper, something that makes me fall in love with this album a little more.
The album opens with the completely unrepresentative delicacy of “Symposium” (track 1). But the gentle, discordant piano doesn’t last long as a dark, thumping melody takes over and segues into “Those that should not exist” (track 2) which rattles down the tracks like a bullet train.
Pounding drums and a buzzing guitar riff lifts “Last of our kind” (track 3) into the air for the dual male/female vocals to take this track to new places. You can’t but smile listening to this masterclass on metal.
“Forging the locus” (track 4) has distinct echoes of Machine Head in this thundering, powerful container of blast beats and ripping vocals. “Keep the dream” (track 5) tears off the starting blocks with a fretboard-dancing riff that sounds like Powerslave-era Iron Maiden on steroids. This is powerful stuff!
The simple Dream Theatre-esque introduction to “Maximus metallus” (track 6) suddenly grips deeply into a mountain-moving riff and a song that pays homage to 70s and 80s metal: Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Lemmy from Motörhead, Iron Maiden.
The start/stop “Divine Future” (track 7) features Snake from one of my all-time favourite bands, Voïvod and manages to make this song sound like it was lifted straight from one of Rob Halford’s solo albums. And yet there are also glimpses of Voïvod. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!
“When all around you is madness” (track 8) lurches and howls, climbs a little before settling into a steady rumble and then drifts into a dream-like gurgling riff with reverb-tastic duelling vocals. But that doesn’t last … there is power, there is silence, there is melody and anger. Madness all around indeed!
Even the bass entry to “Timeless soul cure” (track 9) has power and precision. This is another of those this-train-will-power-through-anything kind of songs. The chorus is triumphant and rousing. “Give me a song!” the lyrics chant. Hey! Give me more songs like this!
The final track “She” (track 10) opens with a crooning male vocal and duetting female voice (I wish I knew who was singing which song) above a high guitar riff. And then just at the moment you begin to think, “I wonder if this is the weakest track on the album?” you discover that it is by far the shortest.
There is one word that kept coming back to me on each listen of this album: power! This a powerful album. With the ever revolving door of who is singing lead vocals on each track, there is a risk that this could have become a disjointed exercise, but it is credit to Predrag Glogovac and co. to have created a musical environment that makes the whole release feel that it has integrity and continuity and a consistent voice—when voice is the one inconsistency.
This album is wonderful! Check out their videos. Put their album on your wishlist. This is my favourite album so far this year. Could it go on to become my album of 2023?
Review score: 100%
Songwriter, lead and rhythm guitarist Predrag Glogovac contacted me inviting me to preview Aortha’s forthcoming album, thank you. I have no connections to either Predrag Glogovac or Aortha. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to Predrag Glogovac and to Aortha for continuing to create fresh, exciting new heavy metal.