Greek black metallers Agatus are back with their first record in well over a decade. We last heard from the two brothers (Archon Vorskaath and Eskarth The Dark One) way back in 2002 around the time of the band’s sophomore record The Weaving Fates, meaning that much has changed. Not only do we have a more produced (yet still a bit thin) sound here, but the record sees to include more clean vocal moments than any disc in the band’s history. Harsh vocals are still utilized here and there, but they’re most plentiful on only one cut, “The Invisible.” Aside from that, these guys have taken a unequivocally different approach on The Eternalist which is only truly black metal in spirit. There are still some drum blasts to be found and maybe the odd tremolo or two (I’m not kidding) but for the most part, this record seems to be a melding of folk-influenced heavy metal and progressive rock. Yes, there are definitely some sixties inspired sections to be found right on the disc’s opener (and title track) so you know exactly what you’re getting from the start.
The Dark One sings on the record, sometimes with guest vocals on chorus-heavy pieces like “The Oath” which feel like they go all of the way back to mid-era Bathory. Regardless of what they’ve done in the past, listeners must be aware that this is a very old-school influenced heavy metal record and at times feels like it crept out of a vault somewhere locked in the eighties. If you pick this up expecting a black metal release and are not happy with it, you only have yourself to blame for not reading up on it. Though if you are open-minded enough to accept that bands do evolve and change, I think you’ll find this tribute to both the gods of heavy metal and of collective belief to be something quite interesting. If nothing else, it is extremely refined by musicians who not only have a love for the classic style of heavy and folk metal, but who are deeply apprised in it’s composition. From a musical point of view alone, this is a rather elaborate recording, with a robust sense of melody and a bold attention to detail that will surely make it stand out. Perhaps some of the clean lines could do to be a little better and feel a bit gruff, but there’s a definite sense of enthusiasm behind that which I can’t just throw to the sharks. Putting it simply, these gentlemen haven’t released a new album in ages and wanted this new record to come across as something by which fans would accept after all these years.
Adding to that, I can’t say that their desired goal will be achieved. There are still a lot of fans of the band’s early black metal sound, and I know for sure that a certain group of metalheads will write these guys off at this point. That’s fine, it usually happens. On the other hand, perhaps they’ll pick up a new audience in the older heads that remember this kind of music before the days of black metal extremity. If you can’t hear the Iron Maiden riffs in “Perils Of The Sea Pt. II” for example, then you really need to go back through their discography. I additionally see a lot of fans of the pagan/folk metal style really jumping on the bandwagon for this, as they should. This approach is probably the most un-Grecian (the band are most compared to Rotting Christ on Metal Archives, but that comparison will have to change greatly after this disc releases) that I’ve heard from the country, but it works to show that there are other styles of music coming out of there besides the ritualistic black metal stuff that we remember. I just reviewed an act called Nox Formulae on my home site that fits that particular description better, so if you’re turned off by this disc, you might want to pick up that one instead.
Even so, I don’t see how you could be turned off by this sound, regardless of the fact that there are still people who see it as old man music. But I’ll tell you what – if this is nothing more than old man music, it is definitely some of the best old man music I’ve heard in a while. “Dad rock” they call it. Well, I never became a father, but I definitely enjoy this stuff – so give me a cane and get the hell off my lawn. Agatus have come back from a long hiatus with something completely unexpected, but not at all insignificant.