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Agretator > Delusions > Reviews
Agretator - Delusions

Spiritual Demise of the Ancients - 93%

bayern, August 17th, 2015

Death metal was the only metal genre still standing proud in the early/mid-90’s amidst the grunge/groovy “flood”, and masterpieces continued to leak out from it from both more or less known practitioners. The Floridian scene reached its peak early in the decade, and it was Europe which produced the finest “fruit” during those troublesome times. However, by the mid-90’s most of the leaders had either disappeared, or had experienced metamorphoses of the more or less surprising variety: Pestilence spaced out quite a bit on “Spheres”; Messiah embraced the gothic metal idea with “Underground”; Gorefest, Massacra, Entombed and Morgoth were already looking at the post-death metal branch and beyond for possible inspiration; Darkthrone eventually turned to the “dark", or rather black, side after the excellent “Soulside Journey”; the one-album-wonder Demilich returned to the deep underground where they always belonged; Nomicon were honing their weapons to enter the black metal realm; Sentenced and Amorphis were getting more epic and less death metal-oriented; Merciless were the only band who sold their souls to thrash at the least appropriate time; Carcass took a lengthy break after the seminal “Heartwork” which led to you know what; and so on…

With a few notable exceptions (Aggressor’s “Symposium of Rebirth”; Sadist’s ‘Above the Light”, Chemical Breath’s “Fatal Exposure”) the finest death metal was cooked in Sweden at the time. It was good that not many bands from there followed on the steps of Entombed’s “Wolverine Blues” and stayed true to the genre’s roots. And when At the Gates struck with the legendary “Slaughter of the Soul”, they pretty much sealed death metal’s fate as the only genre which would survive during the decade, and would even manage to flourish a bit. However, underneath the mainstream comprising acts like In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Dismember, Grave, etc. were lying bands which largely remained unheard of. One of these unsung heroes were Agretator. The guys started their career under the name Demise and quickly produced two demos of fast, technically-minded thrash. A change of name followed which also led to some musical adjustments: the guys were now looking at the only “ship“ still sailing from the old metal “vessels”, death metal that is.

“Delusions” is a striking album, a marvellous combination of several mythical opuses: Death’s Spiritual Healing”, Pestilence’s ‘Testimony of the Ancients”, and the lesser known Invocator’s “Excursion Demise”. The band don’t go out with all the technical guns blazing and seldom reach the progressive heights of Pestilence’s magnum opus, but all the compositions are clever concoctions of sharp riffage, sophisticated technical shreds, and short atmospheric sweeps the latter not entirely based on the guitar sound, coming with an unobtrusive presence of keyboards and other side effects. There’s something clinical in the execution, a very sharp sound reflected in tight, concise arrangements which never sound overdone keeping the proceedings within the technical death metal realm with a covert thrashy flair: think the aforementioned Invocator effort for a good reference point.

Enters the opening “Prophecy” and the razor-sharp guitars start cutting with no mercy the “anaesthesia” coming in the form of a short atmospheric relief in the middle. The fast-paced delivery never falters in the worst case scenario reduced to energetic Death-like semi-gallops like the ones on “Critical Dimensions” and on “An Infirm Soul” the latter also producing a spellbinding acoustic intro. “Blistering Madness” is an operatic progressiver in the best tradition of “Testimony…”, but its ambitious orchestral decisions aren’t the focus here, and they are immediately replaced by the short spastic headbangers “Pointless Objection” and “Merciless Living”. Melodic deviations come served on the twisted “Human Decay” and “Internal Severity” the latter again graced by a beautiful organ-induced beginning; both are vintage “Spiritual Healing” leftovers with the staple up-tempo shreds, the sudden slower turns, not to mention the great melodic leads which are an appendage very few death metal acts can be proud of. All the way to the closing “Pictures” which draws “pictures” of technical death metal mastery based on ripping, speedy riffs and another enchanting operatic outro which wraps up the whole album, another obvious nod to their peers from Pestilence.

It was really good to hear such a refreshing rendition of masterpieces of the genre from not so long ago, done with professionalism and a thorough understanding of its canons, but the guys’ motherland had already become synonymous with the melodic, more immediate and catchier sound of the Gothenburg cohorts, and technical audacity wasn’t very high on the list of the diminishing death metal fanbase. Consequently, the interest generated by this strong effort was minimal and prompted the band to look back at their more thrashy roots on their next installment, the excellent EP “Distorted Logic”, which was a bold step, to say the least, but its ethereal, abstract character was a sure winner siding with meisterwerks of modern progressive/technical thrash like Aftermath’s “Eyes of Tomorrow”, Aleister’s “Tribal Tech”, and Coroner’s ‘Grin”.

It’s not game over for them yet, and not only that, but the guys finally found a place under the sun as Darkane under which moniker they have become one of the most prominent representatives of the modern technical thrash/death metal movement with six full-lengths released of a consistently high quality… but what am I doing, for crying out loud?! Do I really need to go on?! Is there even a single hopeless retard out there who hasn’t heard of Darkane…