Sometimes, a band comes from out of the blue with a stunning full début album. Without any real warning, even with the internet at our disposal. Not even a demo, or anything that is assembled from the implosion of a recently split band – which is even more surprising.
Agruss, are that band.
Agruss come from the Ukraine, and have thrown down the gauntlet with ‘Morok’ which is probably one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard this year.
Their album cover with the atypical indecipherable logo and grainy dark print suggests that they’re a Black Metal band if you have seen a copy of it. However, a quick whirl in the CD player reveals that they’re an interesting mutant of black and death metal components with a unique flavour of their own, that is truly refreshing. They harbour a pitch black sense of total nihilism, and have a sound that pours from the speakers like an inky black suffocating void as if the four horsemen had decided to pay you a visit using your speakers as an inter dimensional portal to your world. A sense of total despair, futility, and darkness committed in such a stark atmospheric manner similar to that of Dragged Into Sunlight.
An interesting thing of note is the combined twin vocal attack that covers both high and low-end levels of the extreme metal spectrum, a guttural growled vocal in the style of Chris Barnes era Cannibal Corpse combined with a piercing high-end vocal shrieks in the style of Hecate Enthroned. Interestingly, the band are very found of the use of breakdown guitar style passages to aid to the heaviness of their sound. The more kvlt of you will probably find too many similarities to bands that have emerged over the past few years who sport band members that have overly fussy hair and a fondness of neck tattoos – to my ears it’s plain for all to see that they often have their Killswitch Engage, Bleeding Through and Blood Has Been Shed albums as a regular soundtrack on their mp3 players. To my ears, this isn’t a bad thing but the influence is certainly there.
Despite the influences in their sound, they use stark and contrasting dynamics combined with various usage of apocalyptic samples used mainly as intros to their tracks. The faster elements of their tracks involve poly-rhythmic drumming fury and furious fretboard work in a manner that reminds me of Cannibal Corpse, with a definite Black Metal flavour that underpins the entire mix reminiscent of Belphegor minus the theatrics. One thing is for sure, is that it makes for a very compelling listen. The track ‘Morok’ is particularly excellent featuring slab footed deathcore riffs drowning in what can only be described as a sea of acrid bile and acid just enough to corrupt its origin, that is punctuated by a soaring Mike Amott style guitar solo that is truly excellent. ‘When The Angels Fall’ charges from the speakers with a full on melodic death metal stomp that has been squeezed through a patented black metal filter with the occasional breakdown that reminds me of vintage Cryptopsy. ‘Under The Snow’ I, II, and III is a dizzying odyssey featuring a glorious mix of black metal brutality, melodic death metal soundscapes, and slow/fast dynamics that ends in a sense of bleak suffocating despair with the album closer.
Gloriously catchy and simplistic in parts, while combining very competent and complex passages – ‘Morok’ is an album very worthy of note. I believe this to be one of the essential purchases of the year for your collection, and if they ever tour as support for a larger band you will be kicking yourself for swanning off for a beer or a smoke because they’re a ‘lowly support band from nowhere’. All in all, I highly recommend them.