Per Aspera

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Per Aspera, the debut album by the Slovenian quartet Noctiferia, is a varied and complex layering of death metal tropes -- singer Gianni Poposki uses the traditional "death grunt" vocal style on most of the album -- with some downright progressive textures that recall, occasionally, the Eastern European folk-inflected art rock of Plastic People of the Universe and the technical virtuosity and thudding attack of classic King Crimson. After the tantalizing and too-brief instrumental title track, Per Aspera's eight lengthy tracks hang together well as a whole album, but they're also so sufficiently varied -- from the acoustic textures of "God's Debris" and "Fond of Lies," both of which balance delicacy and thrash in a manner that recalls, dare it be said, Led Zeppelin III, to the shredding power of "Never Rue" -- that the songs maintain their individual integrity.

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