Reviews by Jason Guest
With an ever-growing list of great bands to their name, Polish label Agonia Records have featured in these pages before with releases from bands as diverse as Svartsyn, Aborym, Pest, Aosoth, The Moth Gatherer, Tombstone Highway, Beissert, Ephel Duath, Kongh, Acrimonious, and Forgotten Tomb. Over the past few months, Agonia have released a few more and among them are albums from French blackened death crew Temple of Baal, Czech black metal mob Inferno, and British genre-defiers Code reviewed below.
Want to hear more from Agonia? Check out their Bandcamp page here. In the meantime…
Temple of Baal – Verses Of Fire
15 years in and France’s Temple of Baal are as strong, as fierce, and as rabid as they ever were. And with album number four, Verses of Fire, the elements of death metal that have been emerging increasingly throughout their career to augment their initial black metal foundation reach higher levels in the band’s evolution. Dark atmospherics, colossal riffs, and unremitting intensity are bashed into ten ruthlessly battering tracks that are as brutal as they are melodic. Yes, melodic. While the brutal does, of course, dominate, particularly in the unpronounceable opening track and ‘Bloodangel’, with the atmospheric intro to ‘Arcana Silentium’ and its dynamic arrangement and more complex structure, the melodic becomes more prominent. While this equilibrium between brutality and the melodic is maintained throughout the remainder of the album, it’s ‘Lord of the Raging Seas’ that stands head and shoulders above the rest of the tracks with its emphasis on the dark and demented in the maniacal chords, barbed riffs, and concentrated rage.
Of course, there are a few flaws here and there (‘Golden Wings of Azazel’ is a pretty standard blast of black/death ferocity that neither augments nor detracts from the album’s quality), but instead of being either an album front-loaded with the best that the band has to offer or one where those tracks are scattered amongst the remaining mediocre offerings, Verses of Fire is a well-balanced, well-produced, and well-executed album from start to finish and is definitely one of the best black/death offerings of 2013.
7.5 out of 10
- Το Αστέρι 418
- Arcana Silentum
- The 10th Aethyr
- Gates Of Death
- Gnosis Of Fire
- Golden Wings Of Azazel
- Lord Of The Raging Seas
- Serpens Luminis
- Walls Of Fire
Inferno – Omniabsence Filled by His Greatness
Czech band Inferno have been around since 1996 and they have a whopper of a discography behind them. Demos, Live albums, splits (lots of ‘em), EPs, compilations, and five full lengths. Nope, these black metal bastards aren’t about wasting time. A quick listen to tracks from their first full length, 2001’s mediocre Duch Slovanské Síly, and its follow up, 2003’s better-than-average-but-not-by-much V návratu pohanství…, and it’s clear that with album number six, Omniabsence Filled by His Greatness, they have evolved significantly, their approach having developed into something much more individual.
With atmospheric opener ‘PERVASION…”, the scene is set and what follows is an album resplendent in complex arrangements, intricate structures, and deep and mystical atmospherics and auras. Adramelch’s vocals are suitably barbed yet his delivery, while sparse, is deliberate and laced with malice and magic, his lines woven into the music to augment the blackened aesthetic. As for the music, its complexities, subtleties, and intricate detail are rich in esoteric weight. While black metal may at first appear to underpin the album, there are layers, depths, and dimensions that transcend a linear, two-dimensional experience of the work. Melodies tear through the album’s fabric as atmospheres blend and collide with the cosmic venom scored into every serrated riff, every barbed lyric, and every merciless beat. Inferno have come a long way since 1996 and produced an album that demands revisits to fully appreciate its ritualistic density. Recommended.
8 out of 10
- The Firstborn From Murk
- The Funeral Of Existence
- Revelations Through The Void
- The Heretical Fissure Of The Most Distant End
- Metastasis Of Realistic Visions
Code – Augur Nox
Code is a band that’s not so easy to pin down. Augur Nox is testament to that. With opener ‘Black Rumination’ blending black metal with prog and rock and hints of avant-garde, album number three from this British bunch will have many scratching their heads. Moving quickly away from what is expected, track two, ‘Becoming Host’, shifts deeper into prog territory and new vocalist Wacian eschews the caustic barbs of black metal in favour of the clean, the melodic and the emotive. While ‘Ecdysis’ turns to the vicious and the technical for its insistent groove and dramatic arc, ‘Glimlight Tourist’ carves the band anew. No, Code won’t be pinned down. They draw from every pot they feel necessary with an ear for the music and the album as a whole. The song is what matters; and so too the album.
The musicians have allowed themselves to be exactly that and given their all to their craft. This does of course lean towards self consciousness and self indulgence here and there and so feels more style than substance. But where would music be without those that challenge their creativity? At times however, in aiming to be as different as possible, some of the tracks, curiously, bear striking similarities and lack a character of their own (‘The Lazarus Chord’ and ‘Trace of God’ for instance). Of course, to labour too long on the album’s few flaws would be an injustice. The musicianship, the song-craft, and the attention to detail as well as to the whole is remarkable.
Flaws aside, this works. And well. The experience of Augur Nox is to engage in a progression as each track brings something new and enticing to the album’s expanding aesthetic. Maybe over-ambitious at an hour long, a new line-up and a developed, perhaps more mature approach, Code have produced an album that will divide opinion. The best ones usually do. A grower, this is an album worth sticking with.
7 out of 10
- Black Rumination
- Becoming Host
- Glimlight Tourist
- Garden Chancery
- The Lazarus Chord
- The Shrike Screw
- Trace Of God
- Harmonies In Cloud
- White Tryptich