“Soulship” is the follow-up to Greek doom/black metal band Agnes Vein’s 2010 debut “Duality” and, to be honest, if it takes three years to write a metal album as confident and massive as this then bring on 2016 as “Soulship” is one loud and grindingly painful (in a good way) statement of intent.
Twelve-minute opening songs are rarely a good idea, unless you’re Iron Maiden or Opeth, but with ‘To Know the God Within’ Agnes Vein do more than just introduce their darker, heavier vision; they create a dense and brooding atmosphere of slow-to-mid-paced guitar riffs, haunting and shrieking vocals and rumbling bass that is nothing short of breathtaking and totally absorbing. If the doom genre was looking for one song to define it then this would surely be in the running.
The crushing ‘March of the Netherworld’ has a bit more pace to it, although the very loose bass strings of Errikos keep that low-end rumble rolling on like an earthquake as vocalist/guitarist Sakis’ black metal bark gives the song a little more spark.
At three-and-a-half minutes long ‘Chaos Cauldron’ is the shortest song on the album and also the fastest, as Sakis shrieks and bellows over blastbeats and chugging breakdowns before the hulking title track brings the pace right back down to a mournful grind, and then it hits you – the band, whilst being very competent and making all the right noises, never try to overdo anything, be flashy or too technical, instead letting the vibe and atmosphere they create carry the songs forward. It’s a simple album in the best possible way.
The album rounds off with ‘Eventus’ and ‘Bloodfiend’, two tracks that lean more towards the black metal side of their influences, especially in the case of ‘Bloodfiend’, and six songs in forty minutes has rarely sounded quite so engaging or moody. “Soulship” may only be Agnes Vein’s second album but in the grand scheme of things it could prove to be their masterpiece.