Argus: Boldly Stride the Doomed

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Argus: Boldly Stride the Doomed
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Argus: Boldly Stride the Doomed
Doom Metal, Heavy Metal
Cruz Del Sur Records
May 3rd, 2011
Release length: 54:43
Myspace
Argus hails from Franklin, Pennsylvania, formed in 2005, and is a band that many more then likely have yet to hear about. The group’s debut self-titled full-length effort was released through Shadow Kingdom Records in 2009, sticking primarily to the underground. Now, for their follow-up, the band has signed with Cruz Del Sur to issue Boldly Stride the Doomed to give their fans the much waited second release, and reaching out to more listeners, though still sticking closer to the underground given the more independent nature of the label. While this isn’t the most unique band out there, Argus definitely grabs these styles by the throat and understands what makes this type of Metal so good in the first place.

Immediately, similarities to bands like Candlemass become obvious when “A Curse on the World” kicks in, while “Abandoning the Gates of Byzantium” feels slightly awkward to the approach of the later songs with it’s acoustic instrumental introduction to “A Curse on the World”, but it works with the overall atmosphere of the album and does manage to set up the album for the listener. The song itself finds the opening guitars to be similar to practically any Doom Metal or Heavy Metal band out there, not being too heavy at all, but sounding lighter and working with the overall catchiness to some of the Heavy Metal-based chords before shifting towards a Doom Metal atmosphere with deeper chords emphasized nicely with the bass to give it a burdening feeling that is completed with the traditional clean singing that is just perfect for the deeper pitch of the music, giving off a rather epic vibe with it’s deeper and strong harmonized performed to how they sound against the atmospherically melancholic and gradually building music that is infecious right from the start with solid song writing and material that blends both the Heavy and Doom Metal worlds together perfectly.

For the most part, many of the songs on Boldly Stride the Doomed have a quicker pace, but there are times where the songs will tread into more traditional Doom Metal slower paces. “The Ladder” is the first that really tries to grapple with this idea, and for the first minute or two it sounds alright, but eventually the song does hit slower passages, and it just starts to sound bland and boring. While the music itself remains solid, the lack of a dramatically heavy feeling that typically works well with bands that practice this sort of slower Doom Metal approach, such as Novembers Doom, and happen to succeed at it, simply does not exist. This causes everything to really sound a little open and nowhere near as rich as the somewhat more complex music that comes from being performed in a generally mid-pace manner. “Durendal” also manages to slow the music down towards the end, but the guitar solo works in it’s favor, as well as finds the band focusing more on “epic” sounding material then a slower, traditional sound, which helps keep the music strong enough to hold the listener’s attention until the very end. “Pieces of Your Smile”, however, finds the music to be far worse, and much more open. Simplistic chords keep the more Stoner Rock flow and atmosphere of the track in check, and when things do pick up, it’s typically in a more epic manner, but it takes forever for it to happen, and the vocals wind up being the only saving grace to the rather bland and boring song that lasts neary eleven and a half minutes. On top of that, this song feels more like it should have been the closing song given how the band handled the progressions between the slower open sound to the richer and heavier atmosphere driven portions of the song, and had they done so it may have been a little more enjoyable as it chronologically made sense to have material like those, though it still wouldn’t be an excuse for the song since a much heavier and melancholic sound would have really aided in this song being a complete success.

However, for as much as those slower elements run the potential of hurting this release, they do offer one fantastic thing: A stunning, strong vocal performance. “42-7-29” manages to get everything right with the slower pace for the band, unlike “The Ladder”. The music still isn’t as heavy as it should be, but the chords come off a little more burdening and crushing thanks to the bass, and feel a little busier as well for the pace that they are being played at. Couple in the random keyboards and some heavier focus on the bass to drive the guitars moreso then usual, plus the addition of a typical church bell ringing a little more then half way through adds to the overall atmosphere of the song, making it just feel more depressing in the long run. However, this song also features one of the most powerful vocal performances on the release, utilizing a lot more energy coupled with the already dynamic “epic” presence that has existed since “A Curse on the World”, really working to make this song feel emotionally devastating and equally as grim and depressing. Not to mention the closing of the song has some rather beautiful traditional piano thrown in to close the song out nicely. But while this song is a shining example, it doesn’t represent all the slower tracks, and those actually make up a good majority of the songs on this release.

The sad thing about Boldly Stride the Doomed is that, while the intro is a little awkward but does what it needs to do, the band used that same introduction track as the closing track, just altered. After the long winded “Pieces of Your smile” comes to a close, you are greeted with an extended version of “Abandoning the Gates of Byzantium”, except this time the audio is much different, having a hollow sound to the acoustic guitars, and the electric guitars and drums are much lower, all of with sounds like a more raw production then anything. When you break it all down, it honestly feels a little like a joke for a closing track, and it really doesn’t do anything to send the album off on the right tone, which is sad considering “Pieces of Your Smile” would have worked nicely in it’s place.

But with all that said, there’s no denying the more upbeat songs here are the best. Not all the slower songs are horrible, in fact many of them are still good songs, just greatly missing a heavier vibe from the music itself to be something that reallys tands out. “A Curse on the World”, “Wolves of Dusk”, “42-7-29” and “Fading Silver Light” really show what the band is capable of, and what kind of epic elements can be incorporated into these recordings. Of course the slower songs are still enjoyable, and they show a good amount of promise for the band too. One listen and it becomes clear the band has a strong concept of how to properly execute the solid Doom and Heavy Metal sound. Had the instruments been a little deeper, there would have been no denying that they would have made for some great slower paced tracks, but thanks to the lighter atmosphere to the music, it just doesn’t seem to stick well with them.

Either way, Boldly Stride the Doomed by Argus is still an impressive album, especially for a follow-up. While the slower material often isn’t as strong as the more upbeat and catchier songs, it’s all still rather impressive and shows the amount of talent the band has when it comes to this style of music. If you haven’t had the chance to experience Argus, then now is the time. Boldly Stride the Doomed is takes the classic sound outlined by bands who came before them with this style of music, and pays homage to that generation with ease.

01. Abandoning the Gates of Byzantium – 1:13
02. A Curse on the World – 5:25
03. Wolves of Dusk – 6:23
04. The Ladder – 5:28
05. Durrendal – 7:26
06. 42-7-29 – 6:56
07. Boldly Stride the Doomed – 2:34
08. Fading Silver Light – 4:37
09. Pieces of Your Smile – 11:23
10. The Ruins of Ouroboros – 3:20
Overall Score: 7.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Cruz Del Sur Records via Earsplit PR.