REVIEW: Shola Aurora - NEGLECT

Former Sol Ardour vocalist Shola Aurora has officially released his first EP as a solo artist. The New York-based artist takes influence from artists like the GazettE, DIR EN GREY, and Gackt, and his style is a haunting and mysterious collage of visual kei, goth, metal, glam and experimental music. The result is of all of these influences is NEGLECT, a fascinating and thoroughly original debut release that shows off Shola Aurora's talent and creativity. With NEGLECT, Shola Aurora has successfully created and showcased his own unique sound that is sure to fascinate listeners all over the world. Read on for more details.

NEGLECT Regular Edition Cover
2. LOST 
3. REQUIEM (preview)

NEGLECT begins with a title track that immediately sets the tone for the epic atmosphere perpetuated throughout the EP. Deep ambient sounds give way to two dueling guitars, strong drumming, and haunting backing sounds, all three of which combine to create an incredibly powerful intro. Every aspect of "NEGLECT" is made up of a ton of moving parts. The vocals on this track provided by Shola Aurora and guest singer Peter Lanza range from light falsetto to powerful tenor to a myriad of impactful rough vocals. The backing instrumentals are a mind-bending mixture of orchestral music, gothic music, ambient music, and who knows what else – I can honestly say I've never heard something like it before. Even the more "traditional" rock instruments have a large amount of variety: two electric guitars constantly battle throughout the track across a variety of drum tempos and in and around some very impactful soft acoustic guitar notes.

What makes this song particularly interesting is the equal distribution of mixing across the vocals, backing music, and guitars. Each  feels equally as crucial to the overarching atmosphere of the song as the others, and that's a huge achievement (backing music in particular has a tendency to sound thrown-in on a lot of rock tracks these days). The song is a bit all over the place due to all of its moving parts, but the quality and care put into each moving part make it hard to see that as a bad thing. More than anything, "NEGLECT" feels like the musical equivalent of Shola Aurora laying out all the tools in his arsenal on the table for the listener to see. It's essentially his musical resume, and it's quite a solid one at that.

"LOST" is a soothing yet wistful instrumental that begins the EP's transition from energetic to soft. Spanish guitar notes dance across a backdrop of backing music that sounds as if it was performed by the ghost of an orchestra. I really can't say enough about the haunting backing sounds that Shola Aurora has crafted on NEGLECT; the thought that went into them is extremely commendable, especially for a debut EP. "REQUIEM" is a stunningly beautiful song that gave me chills throughout its duration. I would consider it to be the best track on NEGLECT. A slow and gentle celesta melody introduces Shola Aurora's beautiful vocals before melting into the background. Orchestral music and acoustic and electric guitars layer on top of each other, building up to a gorgeously grand chorus. This is an extremely high-quality ballad that I honestly did not expect to see on a debut EP. Shola Aurora definitely has the softer side of his sound figured out .

The first thing I thought of when I heard "REAPER[LAN:TURN]" was how much it reminded me of the GazettE's "In the Middle of Chaos" in structure (which is definitely not a bad thing). However, the song immediately distinguished itself by using superior melodies (on both guitar and vocals) along with the atmospheric experimental metal undertones that are used throughout the EP. This anthemic banger has a guitar hook that will get stuck in your head and a fast steady pace that makes it fun to replay over and over again. This song contrasts with the previous "deeper-sounding" songs, and this gives NEGLECT some nice overall variety.

For the unplugged version of "NEGLECT", Shola Aurora opts to use lovely piano backed by gorgeous and gentle orchestral music. This song actually sounds quite different to me from the original version of "NEGLECT"– it took me a few listens to pick out the familiar notes in the chorus. I think it has something to do with the vast amount of ground that "NEGLECT" covers, and while that makes it sort of difficult to draw comparisons between it and "NEGLECT [UNPLUGGED]", it also makes "NEGLECT [UNPLUGGED]" feel like its own standalone song, effectively giving the EP a fifth unique track. This is one of the more unique unplugged versions of a song I've heard (the beginning even includes sounds from a thunderstorm), and I really appreciated the originality and thought put into it.

When I stopped and paid attention to the lyrics of NEGLECT, I found them to be pretty interesting (if a bit vague), but it was difficult for me to pay attention to the lyrics and absorb the grand atmosphere of the music at the same time. Now that Shola Aurora has shown what he can do with NEGLECT, I think it would benefit him to focus on tightening the focus of the songs so that the lyrics and sound better compliment each other to deliver a more meaningful impact, as was done with "REQUIEM". I would also be curious to see songs that keep Shola Aurora's core sound but focus on performing a few related musical elements really well. I think they would contrast nicely in future releases with  the more ambitious songs like those found on NEGLECT, which push the limits of what Shola Aurora can fit into a single track.

NEGLECT genuinely surprised me with a sound that is not quite like any other out there. This really did feel like the work of Shola Aurora as a solo artist and not that of a band's vocalist: all of the rock/metal elements were very well done, but it's clear that just as much thought was put into the backing ambient and orchestral music, to the point where it doesn't feel right to even call it "backing music". Shola Aurora is one of the few U.S.-based artists doing visual kei-inspired music and doing it well, so I strongly recommend supporting his talent by buying NEGLECT. I really look forward to what Shola Aurora releases in the future, and I hope other aspiring artists with similar influences will find inspiration with the example that he has set with the release of this excellent debut EP.

Find out more about Shola Aurora and NEGLECT our introduction article here.

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