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Unexpected tracks on a path well-trampled - 85%

Gutterscream, November 7th, 2006

“…if Thor’s hammer is high above the rest, all the Gods are shivering, they know there’ll be a test…”

This Dutch quartet is adorable to a point. They dress like it’s mid ’82, play like it’s late ’83, and the running amok centaur cover could probably stretch across the entire decade, but none of this is a distraction when the record scantily crackles to life. With cheese-layered confidence in a resolute Grim Reaper sorta way, upon initial spin it’s fairly conspicuous the band itself, or at least its ideals, aren’t hurling in from far-flung reaches, but Angus proclaim a passion that hinges on compulsive, elbow bent in a steady salute to a style that in their hands is unexpectedly explosive. Track of Doom, the band’s first, rolls off energy in spools that even during its more mid-ranged gallop is superbly vibrant, fresh like new produce that concedes the impression that these guys dig deeply the early speed metal style that, by ’86, was pretty much being circled by moths.

Within this eight-tracker, creativity somehow gets stuck in an almost bizarre paradox that doesn’t lie in its heady brew of velocity and melody as one may expect, but in evidence that some of these songs closely mirror one another at a few important angles: vocal delivery, rhythmic arrangement, and most vividly, percussive drive. Immense rolls of double bass barely stop when started and rarely veer onto another road of action, dominating entire tracks without regard to redundancy, but this (is where the paradox kicks in) obvious sameness strangely doesn’t devolve the songs’ impact where it lives, allowing the roiling “When Giants Collide”, “Heavyweight Warrior” and wordless “Dragon Chase” to survive despite breathing very similar, carbon monoxide-filled air. Normally a bell of doom would echo because of this, but in this case it’s a careless captivator that isn’t easily explained away.

While windchasers like “When Giants Collide” and “Heavyweight Warriors” are possessed of fairly straight-steamed and virulent riffage, speedster and slowster alike entangle in a naturally flowing classical persuasion (bassist Gerard Carol is a formally trained violinist) without a proggy branding, fingers sometimes flailing scale-like along fretboards in streamlined guitar volleys that sweet-talk another dimension into instrumental album kickoff “The Centaur”, parts of “The Gate”, the detailed yet refined title cut, and cool silk glove over steel gauntlet “Lost Control”.

Last but far from least, Vocalist Edgar Lois is unabashed in his early Bobby Ellsworth meets Messiah Marcolin charge, his clean and boisterously flung pipes reverberating all over the place, clutching at many righteous Dio-isms that rise more vehemently on follow-up Warrior of the World and here inflame lyrics dangling Norse, anthemic, and steely sensual themes that aren’t exactly a surprise. With a hardy production that throws them right in front of the train, they’re hard to miss.

Angus is a cool band. Not alarmingly different, just reverential in its late-day, spear-gripped speed metal proposal. And it’s true that they’re named after a popular Aussie guitarist (possibly the original headbanger) and meat.