By Kyle Harcott
Another metamorphic-dense shard of dirge that recently got recommended to me, and from first spin, it’s scarcely left my ears in the days since. Slow and sweeping, clinically cold, equal parts stellar and grotesque; at other times bordering on grimness so black it’s blinding, Thessaloniki trio Agnes Vein is a strange, hulking beast of unknown origin. The band’s been honing their particular brand of elephantine black-space-sludge since forming in 2001, having released two prior demos in 2004 and 2008. Duality is their first full-length, a frighteningly good example of taking the time necessary to hone your craft.
Opener “Melkor” lumbers in at a crawl, setting the scene. The song careens like some marooned gargantronaut stuck dragging his bulk across a planet with gravity far denser than Earth’s, each arduous step sending seismic layers of hard crust cracking beneath his feet. Vocalist Sakis manages to straddle that gap between sounding both hymnic and bloodcurdling throughout the record – at times he’s plaintive, and at others, positively retching. “In Orbit With the Cosmos” picks up the pace none, just more slow-motion bludgeonry like a time-lapsed ten pound sledge to the ribs. Even the battle-ready “Earendil”, with its galloping mid-tempo pace still manages to throb like a sunstroke migraine. But the best is yet to come: Opus “The Fall” lopes out moody, slow and wounded (vaguely echoing Monotheist-era Frost) and becomes progressively more domineering until the song climaxes in a shatteringly slow finale eight-odd minutes later. Beautifully ugly speed finally rears up in “Duality”, which is straight-up first-wave Bathory-worship, and showcases some impressive leadwork in Sakis’ solo. Finally, the blistered closer “Outro” hammers like “Orgasmatron” and ties the record up in a neat package; it’s the perfect bookend to the album’s opener.
All of which has left me severely impressed. As I mentioned, Agnes Vein have well steeped themselves in the lore of Blood Fire Death-era Bathory and latter-day Celtic Frost, but at times, the music also hints at the drone and mood of Jesu. There’s also the strong aftertaste of Primordial in the guitar tone. It’s an eclectic mix, but the influences serve them well and Agnes Vein have managed to distill them down into their own secret formula. I highly recommend Duality to anyone whose ears pricked up at any of the aforementioned inspiration.