"This album right here embodies every little aspect that I love about the Church. Although they put out some amazing material before this and some great stuff since, this work still remains in my mind the greatest effort of their career. Marty Willson-Piper's guitars move from soaring walls of feedback and overdriven bliss to hauntingly chiming 12-string melodies on his trademark Rickenbackers. Peter Koppes holds up the rich undertones, filling in all the gaps with his precise, smooth playing and atmospheric touches. One-time drummer Jay Dee Daugherty keeps a tight, jazz-like feel on the skins throughout the songs, dropping down to light brush-work on "Swan Lake," and charging up to rolling toms on "Chaos." And Steve Kilbey maintains his throbbing bass tones, while weaving delicate, surreal tales in his rich and distinctive baritone voice. Each song smoothly glides into the next one, creating a complete piece from all the component parts. This ain't a collection of songs here, folks - this is an ALBUM.The key to Priest=Aura is to listen to it LOUD, preferably even with headphones. There are layers of sound to sort through in this album. . .even after owning it for eight years, I still catch new parts every now and then that I hadn't noticed before . The music here is something you absorb, not just listen to. The lyrics paint out epic scenes, the guitar textures fashion a landscape of sound, and the bass and drums set a tight intensity and dynamic for each musical "setting." Still, it is the songs that create the whole, so it would be unfair not to recognize some of them. "Aura" opens the album with a lush keyboard line, before eventually transforming itself into an incredible mass of guitarwork. "Ripple" continues with the aural magnificence, highlighting what is likely one of Peter Koppes's best solos ever. "Mistress" is a delicate, beautiful song, accented by sad string effects and exquisite guitar touches, while "Kings" underlines that famed Willson-Piper/Koppes interplay, as the guitar parts bounce back and forth over Kilbey's melodic Bass VI parts. Among the most interesting tracks, however, is "The Disillusionist," which possesses such intense imagery in its coupling of Kilbey's lyrical tale and the guitar parts that it is almost frightening. The grand epic though, is definitely "Chaos," which rumbles and roars in sonic power, building up in intensity until it finally cascades and collapses downwards into nothing again.Forget the radio and MTV, kids. . .this is music that can really take you places."
When the pain comes back I don't want to know
landru141 | Planet Houston | 10/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is my favorite Church album. It remains the single masterpiece in their very illustrious catalog. As someone pointed out, there are those who think the "pop" stuff is the peak, but not me. While I love songs like "Unguarded Moment", "Almost With You" and "Electric Lash", I don't see much difference between the direction of that early music and this. In fact, evidence can be found on each album that this is clearly where the band were going all the time.
But, I'm not here to argue, I'm simply stating the otherside of the argument. Most new fans will want to start with something like "Starfish" (with "Under the Milky Way" on it), but that album is a little sterile and unfortunately suffers from the other band members singing on them. "Priest=Aura" is a determined, focused album that has all the spacey coolness of Kilbey's vocal delivery, but with warmer production values, while not being very interested in a hit single.
Tracks like the Church archetypical title track, "Dome" "The Disillusionist" and "Chaos" are all absolute classics.
It should be remembered that this album came out exactly at the moment when Nirvana made "alternative" a non-alternative catagory. There was a great purging of bands like the Church and Robyn Hitchcock who fell in the psychadelic catagory (and had no punk street cred). Its hard to imagine that in the space of a few months all those artists could go from top 5 in the college charts to ... well, without a record contract. But, they survived because they were good. Now, finally, Church fans are starting to assert clear-voiced that "Priest=Aura" is a masterpiece."
The best Church CD to date
Michael J. Thompson | North Attleboro, MA USA | 01/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first purchased Priest=Aura back in '92 I didn't really like it. I was still hoping for something that sounded just like Starfish, which at the time was my favorite Church collection. I put this aside with many of my other CDs for some time.A couple of years ago I started listening to all of my older CDs, especially the stuff by The Church. I discovered that with time my yearnings for that one particular sound by the band had faded, and I could appreciate each CD on its own merits. I really listened to it this time, and I was surprised to find I liked it better than any other Church CD.The beauty of this CD is that each song stands on its own in a way that is unique from every other track. My personal favorites are Ripple, Halo, Kings, and The Disillusionist.In my mind, the Church wasn't really the same after Peter Koppes left, and it wasn't until his return on Hologram of Baal that they really stood out for me again. Priest=Aura remains their best CD, followed by Hologram of Baal, Box of Birds, and then Starfish (4th, if you can believe it!)"
Strike while the irony's hot...
Mithras | Cleveland, OH | 11/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Priest=Aura is a dark and strange album, beginning to end, undertones to overtones. It's the most un-"the church" like of their catalog, yet it seems to be the one that intrigues listeners the most. It's eerieness just compels you closer - not like a trap... but a warning. "When he puts his gaze on you, you're amazed at what you'll let him do."I quote this album on numerous occasions. From the chilling "Swan Lake" ("Oh you helpless birdling, nobody wants you. How will you ever survive out of the nest? And the wolf will put his nose in, And the water is so frozen. You'll have to swim like all the rest") to the smoldering "Old Flame" ("anywhere is nowhere when you don't care"), there's something noteworthy at every turn. Every song packs some kind of slow punch ("Tiny baby, so naive. I can't believe what you believe. You were once so happy here"), and it keeps the pace all the way to the very end.The mix of songs seems disjointed at first listen, but every play thereafter seems to unveil a murky and forboding theme. A foreshadowing of an unfortunate future? YOUR unfortunate future? Why don't you ask the dark stranger in the shadowed corner..."