Swedish bulldozer unit Agrimonia crush bodies, psyches on ‘Rites of Separation’

Admitting you don’t know everything is not a sign of weakness. Rather it is an indication that you realize every day is a new learning opportunity and that there is a vast amount of knowledge out there waiting to be explored, even if other people have gotten to it before you. Even if you run a metal site.

I write about hundreds of bands every year, and there are hundreds more I hear that I don’t write about for whatever reason, be that lack of time or lack of interest. But I’m not fooling myself into thinking I have fully experienced every metal band out there and what they have to offer. If I did, doing my site would be incredibly boring because nothing new would ever happen, and I’d never make any discoveries. What’s the point of that? So yeah, sometimes I’m going to encounter a band I probably should have studied up on way sooner than the present time, and I’m just going to have to be OK with that.

agrimonia coverThat brings us to Agrimonia, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based band that employs all kinds of metallic tricks from death metal to crust to hardcore to sludge. They have a whole lot of ways of going about their business, and over the course of three records now, they’ve been sharpening their edges and refining their formula. I had brief overtures with their 2010 album “Host of the Winged,” released by Profane Existence, but didn’t dig deep enough below the surface to really get an appreciation for what was going on. I have since corrected that error. But they weren’t a band screaming on my radar until I got the promo for their latest effort “Rites of Separation,” being released by Southern Lord. Let’s make the “Southern Lord signed a metal band?” joke. OK, let’s move on. This is a heads-up, ears-to-the-ground acquisition for the label, and it paid off in spades because this third record is a total crusher, a realization of potential so volcanic, it’s downright frightening.

If you’re new to the band, let’s get introductions out of the way. On vocals and keyboards is Christina, whose ferocious wail immediately rips you from your comfort zone and makes you go to the ground fighting; guitarists Magnus (also of Atomvinter) and Pontus (Miasmal, Martyrdod), who plays their asses off on this record; bassist Martin (surname: Larsson, who you’ll know from At the Gates); and drummer Bjorn (also of Miasmal), who certainly had to be tired after these recording sessions. He’s all over the place with his brand of violence.

All of the songs on “Rites of Separation” are long. Really long. But none feel like they stay around longer than they should, and they actually give the band a lot of room to flex their muscles. “Talion” is your 11-minute opener that tears a hole right away with a searing guitar line, monstrous vocals from Christina, and eventually some exploratory playing that gives you some breathing room between explosions. The song eventually slows down and grows foggy, clean guitars and blurry keys step in, and then that razor-sharp initial riff comes surging back to help bring the song to an end. “Hunted” is more than 15 minutes long, beginning with gothy, doomy keyboards that sound like something from Katatonia, before the song ignites minutes later with growls and pulverizing melodies. Some sludge and mud strike along the way, and the band then progresses through a bunch of different sections that build on the one before it, eventually allowing some of the murky sounds to return.

“While Life Lies” runs more than 10 minutes and begins with cleaner tones before hitting back into grim doom pockets that also lurch toward death metal. Guitars snake and chug, the vocals teeter on volcanic, and the band eventually settles with down with some acoustic guitars and keyboards that set a calmer mood. But that’s temporary as they ramp up the madness again and renew their commitment to punishment. “The Battle Fought” is the shortest track on the record at 6:46, and there are times when the band channels their inner Bolt Thrower as they sound the horns of war. The song is crunchy, thrashy, and savage, and it’s a song that doesn’t need 10 minutes to whip your ass. Closer “Awaiting” is 15:40 and starts with some introspective wandering and post-metal color before the snarling, vicious growls blast in and disrupt the atmospherics. Once the fervor dies down a bit, more acoustic guitars spill in, the music gets trickly and proggy, and just before the song fades out in relative peace, Christina returns with raspy growls that ensure you don’t forget her messages.

This record isn’t out for a few weeks stateside, but I couldn’t hold in writing about this any longer. Agrimonia should see their profile rise with the mighty Southern Lord behind them, and poor bastards like me now have all the time we need to immerse ourselves in all of their music. This band crushes your body and laughs while you leak marrow, and weirdly enough, you’ll probably find you’re OK with all that suffering. Even if it took me this long to finally get into Agrimonia, I’m pretty psyched I fina      lly know about this five-headed monster.

For more on the band, go here: http://agrimonia.info/

To buy the album, go here (will be available soon): http://southernlord.com/store.php

For more on the label, go here: http://southernlord.com/