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Excellently written Greek bm in the '90s - 90%

Byrgan, August 24th, 2006

Greek mythology can be enriching to read. Take Zeus with his control over Mount Olympus. Along with his brothers Poseidon and Hades, who also shared their own important roles. Together they were gods of the vast sea, the grim underworld and the glorious sky. Even they were spawned from something greater. Their father was Cronus and upon birth he actually ate almost all of them until later spit up. Likewise, these three would create such amazing creations themselves, which would unfold many more interesting stories. Most of us have heard these characters and their tales before. They are nothing new to our tongues and ears, but, then again, it brings back an old feeling repeating them. Let's take advantage and add a twist to where this country came from and what we've learned up till now. Nothing too far out of the ordinary, but a meld of old and new vibes. A kind of tale where the past comes alive with a modern feeling.

Unfolding this account, the band Agatus originally has blood ties to Greece and started turning historic pages in the early nineties. This is when other notable Hellenic metal acts were at the same time releasing monumental albums. Agatus and the band Zemial share members. Both groups play different tunes than some other infamous country mates. Some elements from Rotting Christ, Thou Art Lord and Necromantia come about, and also part of the sound they have comes from recording in Storm Studio. There are also areas where Agatus bring out nostalgic influence and give us their taste of Bathory's "The Return" and "Under the Sign of the Black Mark." Except they play tighter, faster and with less emphasis on palm mutes than Bathory.

Upon first listen, "Dawn of Martyrdom" is one of those surprisingly great finds that unfortunately didn't get mass printed copies. Underlined, it contains subtle hints of keyboards to add built-up climaxes. Then there are folk-like interludes, containing acoustic guitars as well as simulated flute, horns and tambourine to clench this particular type of ancient atmosphere. Overtop, they maintain a black metal side that can range from savage to melodic.

The main music has tendency to be carried by the guitars. They can be played simplistically, but at the same time dish out plenty of different modes of memorable, thought-through rhythms. These electric strings play a decent amount of faster tremolo sections, which can be mesmerizing when sustained, and then often when in this repetitious mode have another instrument take some of the reins in its place. On certain songs, there are two guitar tracks with some separate rhythms going at once. They seldom use palm mutes but carry out a fair share of single notes and faster strummed chords. What's great about the song writing is how they can blend together savageness with melody. More of his riffs are thicker and in the way of aggressive, but at times they can use higher accented strings and it doesn't sound out of place. The vocals are something of a raspy scream with an emphasis on coming from the throat instead of the gut. The projection has tendency to be a tad more pronounced than some other bands, with his words occasionally coming through with some audible translation. The keyboards, on the other hand, are a subtlety to the music. For instance, the song might work up to them with a certain effect to peak a particular moment in a song, such as choir or more unguessable effects with a stand-out higher or lower tone. The drumming maximizes the music with a certain amount of heaviness. Double bass is included quite frequently and with pounding force. Vorskaath peaks at a blast beat, but he also includes other various tempo changes to guide the music in different directions.

This album is surprisingly well written and has each instrument getting a chance to play their own part to the overall dark scheme. Whether it's the interlaced interludes, climatic and subtle keyboards, impacting vocals, memorable guitar lines, level drum sound, the band is able to put it all together with very little that gets in their way. There are just a few minor areas that could have used some more of the various change-ups the band consistently delivers, since some of these said portions might be a little basic with a primitive guitar line and the drums going for a repeated structure, then all but the vocalist rasping overtop.

"Dawn of Martyrdom" isn't going for the most technical or out-there experimental vibes. It has some dramatic license and an epic feel to it. Agatus on occasion back track to an earlier metal scene and give some praise to fore-fronting bands like Bathory. Though this has its own separated personality and the ability to put all of the elements together effectively. Unfortunately, "Dawn of Martyrdom" didn't get its own deserved praise due to limited distribution. Still, keep a look out for this one.