There was a time when a three-minute song was the ideal way to go about business. The songs were more digestible, and it was far easier to get the pieces on the radio. Even when something did go to a more dangerous length—Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” comes to mind—it would get chopped so that it could make the airwaves. Not much has really changed.
But not all music is made for mass consumption. Some stuff is more explosive and personal and is not meant to be divided into bite-size chunks. Metal long has been the home to music that defies boundaries and embracers sprawl, and Swedish crushers Agrimonia have delivered thunderous epics through their entire 10-year run. That continues on their awesome new record “Awaken,” their second for Southern Lord and one of their most expansive musically. They’re as heavy and thunderous as ever, but they also stretch their sound a bit and don’t always have to pummel you at every moment. The band—vocalist/keyboard player Christina, guitarists Magnus and Pontus, bassist Martin, and drummer Bjorn—doesn’t just stay within one path but pushes into multiple lanes, blending rock, post-hardcore, black metal, and doom into the puzzle. It’s an astonishing mixture, and it’s the best Agrimonia ever have sounded.
“A World Unseen” tears the lid off the record, a 9:11-long track that sets the pace nicely. The track sits in more of a straight-ahead rock/post-hardcore edge, as Christina’s howls bury you, and the melodies tidal wave. The guitars grind, while harsh howls lay waste, but then a wave of acoustics rises and brings calm. Out of that, the band sets into proggy, sludgy waters, while spacious leads infuse atmosphere, and the track bleeds out. The title cut runs a healthy 10:11, and its catchy start and charging riffs work their way into a pace that pummels. Christina’s growls power a super-punchy chorus, and then the song disappears into chilly keys and eerie sentiment before the whole thing ignites again. The howls punish, the guitar work bursts, and everything comes to a fiery finish. “Foreshadowed” is one of the shorter songs at 8:46, and its tranquil trickling at the start flows into a dark, moody ambiance that sets a shadowy mood. The song does start trudging, as the guitars cut you apart, and the tempo is nasty. “Watch out! It’s coming!” Christina warns repeatedly, but it’s too late as you succumb to a devastating big finish.
“Awaken” is the shortest of the group, a 3:01 instrumental that sounds like an interlude on a classic old thrash metal record. Acoustic are picked, and then sounds sweep in, guitars begin to rumble gently, and the track fades out, leading right into the monster of the group, 12:52 “Withering.” This has an ominous start, as storm clouds roll in and threaten, as riffs begin to pile up, and Christina’s chaotic growls drive the points home. Melodies envelop all, as the band settles into a brief hardcore-style lashing, and from there, it’s pure devastation until things ice over toward the end. The song feels foreboding, leading to an ending packed with a nasty burst that splinters and flies into space. Closer “The Sparrow” is 12:26, maintaining that cosmic vibe before a classic metal buildup is mounted. Things get humid, as piano drips, and finally about 3 minutes in, it’s fucking on. Vicious growls and slicing guitars make their way toward you, as damaged riffs and a thrashy explosion spit fury. There’s a black metal splash that colors the surface, and then the song seemingly fades. But it’s not over. Guitars soar again, feeling like they’re set for dusk, while growls snarl, and the whole thing ends up in the pit of a whirring dream.
Agrimonia have a stranglehold on making epic dramas that never feel half as long as they are, something they prove again on “Awaken.” Four albums in, and this band is changing and developing before our eyes, sharpening their edges and amplifying the drama. This is a great band that deserves more people talking about them, so hopefully this collection does the trick.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/agrimonia.swe/
To buy the album, go here: https://www.southernlord.com/store
For more on the label, go here: https://www.southernlord.com/