Release DetailsLABEL Grey Inertia Productions
RELEASED ON 5/21/2005
posted on 5/2005 By:
Don't let the generalized band description fool you. While Argath might in fact be raw black metal, the Finnish two-piece is also quite thrashy and accessible, building its sound from a structure consisting of strong riffs that perhaps carry too much of a burden in terms of the group's value.
Good news first: Societatis Draconistrarum, Argath's first full length, will appeal to the less die-hard majority of metalheads. I am not one to take polls, but I feel safe in assuming that most who consider themselves fans of metal aren't exactly playing pin the tail on the goat while blasting Burzum or Darkthrone, the point being that black metal ain't exactly the easiest thing to get into. Common complaints are random shrieks disguised as vocals, derivative, monotonous guitar tones and talented, but ultimately boring and masturbatory drum work. Hey, don't shoot the messenger. Fortunately, Argath keeps the shrieking to a minimum, and when vocalist Gath pipes in it fits the music. As easy as that sounds, I've heard a number of BM bands that ruin the sound they've established by butchering it with horrible vocals. Bands like Urgehal, and now Argath, are the exception. The twin guitar attack sets the musical tone and direction, while the vocals adapt to that established tone, not the other way around.
Easily the most alluring aspect of Societatis Draconistrarum is the aforementioned guitar that conjures delectably evil gods with which to seduce their listeners with epic chord progressions and riffs ala everyone's favorite jaded historian and black metal legend, Mr. Varg V. "Apocalyptic Speech," the second track on the album, builds its pace through the use of appropriately depressing synthesizer selections, which, if edited into a horror film, would come into play after the killer had brutally murdered everyone and the film was nearing end credits, only to progress to a mid-pace play with chords that sound remarkably old school without sacrificing originality. The seventh track on this nine track full-length, "Faustian," serves as an example of another element of Argath's effort-thrash influences. While listening to the album I got a clear sense of time and place; the infant years of the early '90s, when black metal was still establishing itself. The opening riff and accompanying vocals could easily fit into the death metal category, but at the 0:32 mark the listener is treated to a thrash breakdown that could easily be ripped from Rust in Peace. A death metal breakdown at 1:10 seals the deal; this, while black metal, is an amalgamation of so many earlier genres (death, thrash, NWBHM, etc.) that one can't help but describe it as primitive, much like the earliest black metal releases.
Now for the bad news; programmed drums. While the lack of a physical drummer doesn't effectively ruin the entire listening experience, it does chip away a considerable chunk of character Gath and W had developed with their guitars. The drummer plays such a central role in black metal that it's hard to imagine any album in the genre without one. However, if one can focus more closely on the guitars and apply a more open-minded approach to drumming, one will come to terms with this shortcoming, which through careful consideration I now think of as fairly petty in the midst of so many stronger elements which have been pushed to the forefront by production that stresses ambience, guitars, and bass over drums. Ultimately, I give one and a half chewed-up blackened thumbs up to Argath's Societatis Draconistrarum, which through inventive riffs and interesting chord progressions proves Argath to be as convincingly tight in full form as its earlier demos promised.
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