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House of Atreus is one of those rare bands that commands a captive audience with an impressive demo, then manages to top itself in a most stupefying manner. Along with Finland's Lantern, HoA is one of the new legions set to catapult death metal into the new era. The EP titled Into the Brazen Bull silences the naysayers and Arghoslent-whiners that seem to rest on these latter comparisons to the point of mandatory and obligatory boredom.
Yes, the Arghoslent comparisons are not completely without merit, but the former has been quiet in recent years, even catatonic in a time frame that literally screams for such adrenaline to voraciously surge into our waiting psyches. HoA provides a thick, overpowering glimpse into this sound and trudges into the battlefield with all of the reserve of a Charlton Heston one-take chariot race ala “Seed of Discord.” This track, in particular, is like a freighter ship being tossed among the icy hands of Lake Superior in a frantic, unyielding motion. The differing elements between HoA and its wanton contemporaries is the seemingly perfect time-change transitions in the tracks from punishing fury to styled, even 'proggy' feel here and there (yes, I said it, but don't let this scare you away – this isn't Opeth). As with the demo some two years back, the music here speaks high decibel volumes to an eager, thirsty mass scratching at the steel door for music so fulfilling and finely designed. I believe I predicted bigger things for House of Atreus back when I initially reviewed their demo tape, and my stance hasn't wavered and I haven't been proven wrong.
The EP finds a brilliant mesh of styles within its 25-minute collective. “Pitiless Chains” takes the thick death metal sound and supplies just a dash of black metal guitar work to make even the most careful musical chefs look like reality show castoffs. Vocally, Anxietous Nero spews that familiar scuffing growl, but there's no guttural ridiculousness here by any means; the clear, concise bellowing is almost akin to a warrior's call on a Gladiator-like field strewn with broken armor and foggy sentiment covering the area. It's a vocal type that harkens back to some of the old-school DM bands long gone and lesser known, ala Lubricant or even Mordicus. There is something very special happening here with this band, a group that has a firm grasp on what it takes to make modern death metal music stylish without bells and whistles, innovative without pale mimicry, and devastating without plasticity. My one complaint is this is only an EP; I truly hope for a full-length in the coming months. I implore these guys to get along well with each other; we can't afford to lose another fantastic band too early in its career. All kidding aside, one listen to “In the Shadow of Foreign Horses” and you will hopefully understand just how meaningful and defining death metal can be without all of the tripe typically used to fatten its mid-section. This is perfection defined.
I simply can't say enough about this band, people. If you hail the old guard or just like the taste of the new elite, House of Atreus' Into the Brazen Bull is something you simply can't afford to miss for your personal library. It's a disservice to yourself to deny such carnal musical pleasures when they so rarely present themselves in perfect, unparalleled symmetry.
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)