Another CD thrust upon is at Bloodstock was this special edition “white wrapper” EP. That is, it was in a white paper envelope with the track names written on the back in black pen. That’s how you shift CDs in the underground metal scene! If they were any more old school it would have been on tape! And, erm, I’d not have been able to listen to it as I’m pretty sure we chucked out our last cassette player earlier this year.
This is the Reborn EP as available on Reverbnation, and my first chance to hear the band as I was pinned to the media tent for most of the festival’s run. James caught them live and had nice things to say, so I get to listen to the studio version.
The whole black metal thing is something I’ve never really got my head round. I kind of like it, but I’d not label myself the biggest fan. It’s mood music for me in that I have to be in the mood for it. As it happens, I’d just watched through Behemoth’s Bloodstock performance on YouTube with my daughter before I popped this CD on and that definitely helped.
Agrona have gone very much for the “atmospheric” approach with many layered sounds playing off each other. As a result, the tracks aren’t all perhaps as brutal as you might expect (OK, “Immaterium” will eat your soul), but to me that’s a bonus. If I choose to get lost in them then I can air-drum and thrash my head until the pain sets in and the voices start talking to me (again). Alternatively, I can pop this down as background music and just tap my foot along to it.
“Risen” is the best example of what I was drivelling about. Lots of choral singing (I assume emanating from a keyboard) really takes the edge off, and you could almost listen to this track several times over, each time listening to a different layer of sound. Those same keys are used in the aforementioned “Immaterium” but this time they’re more underneath the ferocious blastbeats which does, I confess, bring the ferocity to the fore.
“Treacherous Dead” manages to straddle the line between these two styles, being heavier than “Risen” but not as much as “Immaterium”. It’s slower, which helps, and this time it’s distorted guitar which carries the melody (if you can class something as harsh as rusted sawtooth razorblades as melodic) rather than keyboards. With “Unbound” we almost go full circle but not quite as it’s just that bit more bitey than “Risen”.
I’ve not mentioned “It Begins” yet as it’s a vastly different track to the rest of the EP being an instrumental lead-in. Still, at 3:17 it classes as a proper track, and such it is, but definitely more of a scene-setter compared to the quartet that follows.
As I said, I’m not a black metal kind of guy so I don’t know if my opinion would (or should) carry weight here – but I really like Reborn. For a collection of songs in a style I’m not the biggest fan of, I would listen to it again (and have done so). That should be recommendation enough.