Wednesday 26 May 2021

Aegos - The Great Burst of Light (2021)

Country: USA
Style: Post-Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 27 Apr 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Instagram

Here's another album whose genre is really hard to pin down. It came to me described as "progressive doom metal" and there are certainly some aspects of that to be found, but it's only one part of a vast picture. I've ended up going with post-metal, even though I reviewed a post-metal album yesterday, as this is about as different to Pupil Slicer as can comfortably be imagined and still count as metal. You'd actually be pretty safe using the cover art as the genre, because the music is as bleakly beautiful.

I know very little about Aegos, beyond that whoever's actually in the band hails from Texas. Who and where, I couldn't tell you. The band's page on Bandcamp does list some guests, but three of them are vocalists in some form or other and the two musicians are credited with saxophone and cello and are therefore not responsible for the bulk of what we hear in the five long tracks on offer. There's guitar and bass and drums, as you'd expect. They may be the work of one musician or fifteen. I have no idea.

What I can tell you is what I hear on this album, which I believe is the debut release for Aegos. While it gets very loud and very quiet, reasonably fast and reasonably slow, the first adjective I'd throw out is "patient". Just like the cover art, there's a lot of space in this music and there are echoing silences to flavour the songs as much as the actual notes. Sometimes there are drones, often short ones created out of power chords and there's a haunting emptiness behind some drawn out passages.

Yet, that's far from Aegos's only approach. Ironically, The Stillbeing is the least still of these songs, an intricate weaving of bass, drums and electronica building into a harsh vocal over slow ominous riffing and frantic beats. There are multiple voices here using multiple vocal styles. This song kicked off with a clean voice, but it grows to a harsh one that doesn't sound like it came from the same throat. Even here, it mixes up because there's a point where it becomes a harsh duet.

Vocal guests include Jei Doublerice, Chelsea Murphy and Annastatsea. Doublerice is Italian and listed in Metal Archives as the singer for a symphonic black/death metal band called Journey into Darkness but on Aegos's Bandcamp page as a member of Despite Exile and Abiogenesis, both of whom show up on their own Bandcamp pages as metal bands but experimental ones. Murphy is American and sings for Dawn of Ouroboros, who are listed as "progressive post-black/death metal". Annastatsea, who is credited for spoken word, is also American and another experimenter, opening her soul to the cosmos and embracing the darkness, as her bio reads. In other words, they're all open to something new.

I liked this album from the outset, even though I'd have preferred more variance between clean and harsh vocals. The consistency of the shouty approach on songs like Chaos and Nebulous means that it overstays its welcome a little, though it also ends well. There are five songs here, which generally get longer, from the opener which runs six minutes all the way up to the thirteen minute closer. As you can imagine, they get progressively more epic and I'd call out the fourth track, Qualia, as my highlight.

I'd enjoyed the three earlier tracks but never entirely. I loved some parts of each of them, while some others left me dry. Qualia feels right throughout and, at almost eleven minutes, there's plenty of it to go wrong. Fortunately it doesn't and it grows magnificently. It also features yet another unexpected use of the saxophone in extreme metal, something I'm starting to treasure. It eases in softly, with an ethereal voice behind an unusual beat and a hovering dissonance that feels science fictional, like an alien race observing us through what appears to be a swarm of of bees.

Then it erupts, a frantic beat accompanying a beauty and the beast duet between clean female and harsh male voices. When the sax shows up, it's a wild and free jazz instrument squealing around a riff so relentless that it just has to be deliberately regimented to counter the saxophone. It works really well. Gravity Bending Light is less epochal, even at a couple of minutes longer again, but it gets there five minutes in when the vehemence of the early section boils away and everything gets peaceful. The cello adds to this, as does the oddly choral chanting later on. It's dark but it's delightful.

I hope I can find something out about whoever's behind Aegos. Something this interesting deserves to have credit appropriately assigned. The guests are certainly worthy but they're not the primary here and I wish I could praise him, her or them properly.

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