Argus simmer in classic doom, metal, unleash glorious epics on massive ‘From Fields of Fire’

So much metal revolves around ugliness and anger and violent audio assaults that it feels like the bulk of what we’re served is mean-spirited and furious. That’s totally fine, by the way, because I think we all like that stuff, no? Still, it’s always cool to hear a band that remembers metal once reveled in power and glory and played up those two elements hardcore.

That’s a big reason I’m always excited to have a new Argus record to absorb. “From Fields of Fire” is the Pennsylvania-based band’s fourth record, and it’s their most enrapturing by far. The days of Iron Maiden, Dio, Judas Priest, Cirith Ungol and others creating music that made you feel like you could brandish a sword and take on anything (you can’t, by the way, so let’s keep that in-house) comes rushing back with these killer nine songs. And it’s not that the band came rolling into this thing without battles to fight themselves. Some lineup turmoil occurred, changing the band’s ranks, as guitarist Dave Watson (formerly of Icarus Witch and Mantic Ritual) and bassist Justin Campbell (formerly of Tabula Rasa) joined the fold that includes longtime members Brian “Butch” Balich (vocals), Jason Mucio (guitars), and Kevin Latchaw (drums). Musically, the band is on fire, sounding channeled and pounding, and Balich puts in his best performance to date. Not that he’s been a slouch before. Anything but! Yet, he’s on fire here, bellowing his heart out, adding a little grit, and gushing with emotion. The band really has found new life, and it’s all over this record.

“Into the Fields of Fire” is an intro cut that combines weird noises, static interference, and acoustics, leading the way toward “Devils of Your Time,” which feels rather apropos considering the recent news cycle. The track stomps, while Balich prowls, wailing, “Rise against the devils of your time!” Strong soloing and doom punishment add a good measure of bruising, going into “As a Thousand Thieves” and its muddy blistering. The song is a little harsher, especially vocally, as the band gallops hard, mixes in some scintillating lead lines, and Balich wails, “My hell awaits me!” “216” starts off slower, as guitars cry out, but then the pace kicks up. Intricate, classic metal-style riffing drips with color, as the song reaches back to the genre’s roots. “Circle of fire, your final test along this road,” Balich weaves, as the band backs him with “oh-oh” gang calls, and the guitars tend the fire.

“You Are the Curse” is a killer, perhaps the best song in this band’s entire catalog. The guitars charge ahead, feeling like they’re running alongside Maiden, and the chorus absolutely crushes you. If this thing isn’t stuck inside your head after the first listen, with Balich calling, “Your fate reversed!” then I can’t help you. This is a crushing song, one of the best metal tracks of the year. “Infinite Lives Infinite Doors” is the longest song, stretching 11:14 and dominating the entire time. Epic doom riffs spiral, as the track slowly comes to life. Steely verses flow into the simple, but steady chorus, and there are plenty of musical fireworks to add meat. The guitars are engaged in a duel, taking turns dealing blows, conjuring a nice NWOBHM sense over the track’s final minutes. “Hour of Longing” is dark and shadowy, a mid-tempo scorcher that Balich just rules. “Sometimes in the stillness, I can hear your voice,” he cries, as the moodiness and sorrow well around him, trickling out in black. “No Right to Grieve” is a doom ballad and has Balich signing deeper than ever, as clean guitars deliver emotional balance, and the song builds its intensity. Soloing soars, cracking the sky, as the band conveys incredible power before bowing out. “From the Field of Fire” is the closing outro, the bookend that lets loose rustic guitars and the final rains soaking the ground.

Argus have proved themselves and created a name over more than a decade together, and “From Fields of Fire” is the best thing these guys have created to date. The songs are chock-full of heart and energy, and they recapture that era when you could put on a metal record and slip into your daydreams. Argus may have had to hit a few bumps in the road, but they’re stronger for it.

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