Agiel: Dark Pantheons

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Agiel: Dark Pantheons
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Agiel: Dark Pantheons
Black Metal, Symphonic Death Metal
Deepsend Records
February 28th, 2014
Release length: 19:03
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Mixing Symphonic elements to Death Metal isn’t exactly a new thing, but it’s a sub-genre that has been picking up steam as of late. Rochester, New York’s Agiel originally performed Brutal Death Metal laced with Grindcore, but eventually shifted to fit this style with sprinkles of Black Metal thrown in. They had formed back in 1997, issued their The Works of War demo in 1999, followed by a second Demo in 2001. 2002 saw their debut full-length album Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign drop through Unique Leader Records, and the Hymnos Ex Maledicos Gemini EP later that year before pretty much vanishing after their Vessatu demo in 2005. After about nine years without anything new, Agiel return with a brand new EP titled Dark Pantheons. But will this solidify the band in the Symphonic Death Metal world, or will it only bury them more than the gaping absence already has?

Well, if you’re looking for a brand new spanking new release, this isn’t it. Dark Pantheons is simply five songs from the aforementioned debut album re-recorded to better fit the new style, but with a crisp, higher pitch to the whole thing. This does remove some of the bite, but thankfully doesn’t do much damage to the drums, all of which come through surprisingly well with loud clicks to the bass kicks and some parts carrying a nice little boom with them. The kit itself is really on display during “Dark Pantheons,” adding a great deal of intensity to the keyboards, and even a bit of a commanding presence at times. The general burdening environment the symphonics give off is carried into “Deeds Rendered Upon the Flesh,” which seems to scale the bass kicks back a bit to allow them a lot more room to work their magic on the riffs that take on more of a Black Metal approach at times, bringing in more of a sinister early Egyptian vibe to the matching film score that starts the track.

“Serpent Masquerade” takes to hammering away at the drums, making them the focal point once more. When the pace slows down you’ll happen upon some clean singing as well, as if something torn from In Sorte Diaboli by Dimmu Borir, but a little more hurried in some spots to get the point across and leave it at that. Around the three minute mark though, it does end up emphasizes, as if some kind of chanting better suited to a viking themed effort, yet oddly enough still works here. This track as a whole is rather chaotic, ushering in random shifts of blistering aggression to mid-tempo music littered with technical guitar skills. This seems more like a warm up to “Andromeda,” which sometimes seems to just show off with the complex chords, especially at the beginning. While that pushes a bit too far, the song itself immediately feels like a dark climax to what the last four entries have been building up to, as if facing the literal end of the world in some way or another.

While “Andromeda” hits the listener hard, it’s “The Awakening” that is the most memorable due to how tight the performance itself is. The guttural vocals sound much deeper, and the keyboards are paired with the drums to give a helpless, ominous atmosphere right from the start. Everything just works with one another and flows seamlessly from one segment to another to maintain that oppressive vibe the whole four minutes. Even the Neoclassical guitar solo about three-and-a-half minutes in becomes the perfect choice to wrap things up with.

Dark Pantheons may only be about nineteen minutes, but in that time span, Agiel reminds you why these songs killed it in the first place. It seems like every song is a solid performance that builds up to the next, leading to one final apocalyptic performance to bid farewell with. Given that these are re-imagined versions of the songs from Dark Pantheons Again Will Rise, it’s easy to consider them part of a conceptual release, even if not intended to be that way. The only gripe is the lighter pitch to the audio quality. While the drums and keyboards come through perfectly, everything else has the chance of ending up drowned out or thinned. For a band that hasn’t been in the studio for quite some time, it’s hard not to hear this EP and at the very least appreciate the lack of rust from Agiel‘s gap of silence. Dark Pantheons makes for a surprise release that, while not a set of brand new songs, shows promise for the group’s long overdue return.

01. Dark Pantheon – 3:26
02. Deeds Rendered Upon the Flesh – 3:28
03. The Awakening – 4:07
04. Serpent Masquerade – 4:17
05. Andromeda – 3:46
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Agiel
Agiel

Digital review copy of this release provided by Deepasend Records via Clawhammer PR.