Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Agatus – The Eternalist (2016) / 92%

"Take me far away!"

The Weaving Fates is a timeless masterpiece but is Agatus still relevant more than a decade after their last album? The answer is simple: It's a big thundering "ABSOLUTELY!". Like Norway's In the Woods..., the Greeks are certainly back for the best possible reasons and offers an unexpected masterpiece of Hellenic steel.

Once of the first noticeable aspects of this new opus is that the black metal is mostly gone from their sound. While The Weaving Fates was a nugget of powerful and entrancing black metal with strong traditional metal leanings and it was a riff machine. Their sound wasn’t too far removed from the melting pot formula of the later albums of King Fowley’s Deceased. Those albums are masterful examples of how to combine the metal eras. On this 2016 release, the situation is the opposite from what we used to know of Agatus, the black metal elements aren't the core of their sound anymore. This is irrelevant to the quality of their compositions though.

Dimitrios Dorian’s other band, Zemial, managed to expand to what was possible in black/heavy metal with the transcendantal Nykta three years ago. Fortunately, Agatus gladly follows the road created by their brother band. Zemial’s performance at Wings of Metal last year convinced me that they’re metal's most underrated band and Agatus also needs more recognition and praise.

The main difference between between the two bands is Agatus’ tight songwriting, they’re both as epic but the tempos and approaches are different in nature. The track-list is one of the only normal things here, the forty minutes album  On The Eternalist, the Dorian brothers embraced the progressive rock influence that they always liked but pushed the boundaries of their sound to its limits. If I had to classify the album (something I like to do!), I guess I would say that it’s blackened epic progressive heavy metal (a mouthful, I know...) and it's an explosive and cohesive mix. I imagine Chris Dorian also brings a lot to the songs, the multi-instrumentalist fraternal duo is just so damn creative. 

The record is full of those idiosyncratic guitar leads influenced by the epic metal scene and the clean vocals are predominant compared to their previous releases. There’s a grand variety of voices, in fact. From the soaring yet manly cleans incantations to a rougher and more abrasive approach, there’s a bit of everything on here. Songs like “The Invisible (Fifth Portal to Atlantis)” has this highly understandable type of harsh vocals that I always liked and it’s reminiscent of the olde age of black metal where genres were not totally set in stone. On the other hand, "The Oath (Of Magic and Fire)" has vocals worthy of the best NWOBHM albums and an extremely evocative chorus.

The Eternalist is a rich album with diverse textures with intricate keyboards, subtle chord arrangements (listen to the ending of “Gilgamesh”) and acoustic guitars but the metal riffing remains an essential component of their identity. The metal influences are also quite numerous from the distinctive black metal sound developed in the early 90s by a wide array of interesting bands including Agatus themselves to the ballsy epic heavy/power of Warlord and even Blind Guardian (“Perils of the Sea (Part II)” has leads reminding me of André Olbrich’s playing.). Greek metal bands always incorporates a massive amount of Mediterranean emotions and soundscapes into their music and Agatus are definitely masters of Attican art.

The amalgam of vivid melodies and musicianship is something Agatus truly possess. The fact that the songs are on the short side could be seen as a curse since they’re packed with so much stuff but it’s one of their strengths. They never overstay their welcome and keep things quick, tidy and fresh throughout the whole album. The drumming of Dimitrios (aka Vorskaath) is still impeccable and never tries to be over-the-top even if he could totally unleash furious beats if he wanted to. The guitars are clear, heavy and are really great at mixing the different styles played by the band and the leads are just full of feelings and are the true definition of epic metal. The bass is not so loud but its presence is felt in a very enjoyable fashion, it could had been a bit higher in the mix though. Regardless, the production is lush and doesn't obscure the metal riffs, everything is at its rightful place and I just want to listen to the album all-day long.

All in all, Agatus released a strong album and it has nothing to envy to their previous oeuvres whatsoever. It’s a condensed work with so many riffs, passion and managed to expand their classic metal side. At times, it almost sounds like Rotting Christ mixed with Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and yes, this is wonderful. Greece is having another great year with albums like Nox Formulae’s The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstasy or Kawir’s Father Sun Mother Moon but Agatus’ The Eternalist might be the best representative of this excellent scene.


Thanks to Hells Headbangers for the promo copy.

1 comment:

Erik Peterson said...

Spot on review! I have this album and the new Hobb's Angel of Death on heavy rotation.