I haven't heard Agathodaimon since my EMusic days a couple of decades ago when I discovered an array of favourites on Napalm Records. It's been long enough that I don't remember exactly what they sounded like but I believe that they've evolved a little from more symphonic black metal into a gothic flavour of black metal. Both those sounds are in evidence on the opener, La Haine, which starts out as a grandiose form of black metal but shifts midway to a more emotional gothic sound midway, and it's a highly appropriate way to kick things off.
Initially, the black metal side of this bled through the deepest and I liked it, even though it didn't blow me away. Gradually, the gothic side of it came into focus and I liked it more, with the harsher black metal side an interesting contrast to keep this heavy. Gothic metal can often feel like gothic rock simply heavied up somewhat but this never feels like it's anything but metal, the harsh voices and frantic drums an unmistakable manifesto of extreme metal and their agreeable taint always floats there keeping its evil eye on us, even when the sound gets slower, richer and darker.
The song that emerged as a standout first was Wolf Within, which again starts out black but finds its way to a more evocative gothic sound, with a strong riff and an ambience of whispers, even before the achingly slow and dark section. There's some sort of narration late in the song that sounds like it's delivered by a pissed off witch. Maybe it's a sample and maybe not, but it's evocative however it was sourced. Putting all those elements together makes this quite the potent song.
And, while I'm not sure anything else here matches it, others gradually highlight similar qualities. I rather like the middle of the album, Mother of All Gods and Estrangement the logical end to one side and the beginning of the other. The former is the better song but the latter is interesting, as it's the least black metal song on offer, though there's plenty of double bass drumming going on and it keeps on speeding up until its finale. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the most gothic, because the rich textures evident elsewhere don't show up much at all.
In fact, there's more velvet and mahogany in the sub-two minute prelude to In My Dreams which follows it than in this entire song, with In My Dreams proper kicking off with neat whispered sonic cobwebs before launching into a faster and more frantic tempo. The question really becomes what songs are the best place to start for the new listener. I'd say start with La Haine, just as the album does, and, if you like what you hear, follow up with a double bill of Wolf Within and In My Dreams (Part 2 - In Bitterness). If you're not convinced by them, this isn't for you. If you are, then you're all set and you can explore from there.
Oddly, my least favourite song is the one they've made a video for, which is Kyrie / Gloria. It seems too deliberate for me, as the spotlight section runs too long, a sonorous gothic voice playing a sort of counter to a variety of voices, some shrieky, others very different. It's an interesting idea, but it didn't work for me and the rest of the song doesn't make up for it. That's probably down to choice, which is a personal thing, so you may dig it. The band are very capable, so this ends up being about how the black metal merges with the symphonic and gothic aspects and which songs do that best.
I certainly like Agathodaimon more as a gothic metal band than a black metal one and, while they're a bit more of the latter than the former, they're moving my way. I would suggest that it'll be interesting to see how they develop over their next couple of albums, but they haven't been particularly busy of late. They split up in 2014, after a couple of decades as a band and half a dozen studio albums to their name, but they got back together in 2020 and this is the first output since then. So, welcome back, folks! The Seven is their seventh album. Let's hope it's a lucky one for them.