There’s an oft-uttered adage that equates patience with virtue, the implication being that pursuit is only worthwhile if it’s the product of endurance and perseverance. In many ways, one could easily apply this maxim to the career of Thessaloniki metallers Agnes Vein.
Despite being a few years shy of their twentieth anniversary, the blackened doom trio have only now approached the release of their third LP, Deathcall. And while this colossal six-track album represents the band’s newest material since their well-received sophomore album, 2013’s Soulship, and their 2016 split with fellow Greek sludge merchants Sadhus (The Smoking Community), it’s also a collection of songs written and recorded in the fall of 2017.
The question then is an obvious one: Why wait so long to unfurl Deathcall upon the world? Even if the potential answers are plenty—the onset of a global pandemic, internal band dynamics, label machinations—the true one remains multi-valent and elusive. Yet whatever their collective reasoning, one thing is for sure: patience comes naturally to Agnes Vein.
For much of its runtime, Deathcall appears to be driven by a sentiment of grinding and stern forbearance. Much like their peers in influential acts like Candlemass, Neurosis, and Bathory, Agnes Vein skew towards the darker attitudes of the metal spectrum, allowing their wider doom influences to set the grand scene for their elegiac compositions while bursts of black metal intensity provide primordial texture and friction.
Consider the album’s opening title track. Clocking in at just under six minutes, the track begins like the clash between two opposing gods, before moving briskly through d-beat tempo changes, restless moments of coiled tension, and orchestral clean passages. In truth, “Deathcall” feels as much an exercise in thematic restraint as it does the cosmic fusion of death doom and frost-bitten black metal.
Drummer Foivos Hatzis pounds away methodically with monumental cymbal crashes that ripple and simmer, leaving bassist Lefteris Kasmiris to quaking background rumblings as guitarist and vocalist Sakis Kioses pierces the heavens with searing riffs and murky melodies. This pattern continues across much of Deathcall, with many of the album’s highlights occurring in slight, and no doubt intentional, deviations from this ritualistic design.
The cavernous “Vultures Hymn (Praise Bounteous)” plods along on a pummelling mid-tempo refrain before suddenly dropping away into a gaping chasm of open space, where Kioses’ shrill leads are “lost to the void” as they desperately grasp towards the track’s powerful finish. However, it’s an eclectic lyrical influence that yields Deathcall’s true standout moment.
Drawing inspiration from the 1934 short story “The Death of Malygris” by author Clark Ashton Smith (1893–1961), a member of the Weird Tales triumvirate alongside H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, “They Who Neared The Portals” is Agnes Vein at their most majestic. Twisting Smith’s tale of necromancy and dark sorcery, Kioses wails about death, decay and despair like a man possessed, sounding at times like Technical Ecstasy-era Ozzy Osbourne singing from the bottom of an enchanted well.
Meanwhile, lengthy compositions like the sprawling “Sovereign Star” and album closer “The Golgotha Entanglement” branch out gently into aching post-metal Yob territory—albeit with a bleak battle-jacket touch—through several minutes of intricate instrumental wanderings, subtly urging the listener to get lost in Agnes Vein’s musical digressions and embrace Deathcall with open arms.
Purchase and stream Deathcall here.