Exhausting, mesmeric, destructive, and provocative are just four potent declarations to place upon the impressive and riveting new album from Swedish metallers Agrimonia. Rites Of Separation is an angry aural magnet for the senses, a rapacious tempest of ear twisting, passion brewing, and psyche sculpting atmospheric malevolence. It is a consumption which feeds and fractures thoughts and emotions whilst exploring the soul, the bands and listeners, with startling enterprise. Not always an easy listen it is perpetually a compelling and impacting confrontation with rewards far outweighing its caustic touch.
The Gothenburg-based quintet featuring members of Martyrdöd, Skitsystem, At the Gates and others formed in 2005 and from the very first days has employed a constant regime of live shows and tours. Their self-titled album of 2008 brought the band to the attention of post-rock and crust devotees with its caustic imaginative textures which their follow-up Host Of The Winged two years later built upon, taking the band to wider recognition. It led to the band hitting on the US and Mexico for a successful West Coast North American tour. Having signed with Southern Lord in mid-2012 the band return with their third full length in the mighty shape of Rites Of Separation, the record another hour long expanse of corrosive yet invigorating intensity alongside inspiring imagination and an inventive diversity which offers new horizons and twists with each intriguing and fully committed encounter.
The album again fuses crust, progressive, and sludge rich metal provocation of one full landscape through five individual intensive emotively exploitive endeavours, all a startling and evolving, perpetually shifting aural travelogue of ingenuity and sonic revelation. Opening track Talion immediately sets the scene, the song emerging from a bristling breath speared with highly acidic and irresistible sonic scorching which comes and go within a full and almost suffocating atmosphere. Into its stride the track offers sinews in rhythms and riffs which drive the passions to the surface and flames of brass or keys which try to break free in the background behind the scowling and serpentine rasping vocals of Christina Blom. The air of the track is hazy, its touch scuzzy refusing definition to some elements yet enhancing and elevating the intensity and already sweltering touch of the song. It is a thrilling start, those hidden treats a seductive tease within the changing fascination of gait and expression cross the eleven minute sensation. There is little to dislike or not find an ardour for in the song leaving the appetite for the rest of the release dripped in hunger.
The following Hunted opens on emotive keys, their slight melancholic voice a sheltered beckoning light which lures in thoughts and emotive responses before the equally potent bass narrative adds its presence. Once the scene is set the band smother it to unleash a towering blitz of thumping rhythms and gnawing riffs, the arrived fury bruising and incendiary as its effect is sculpted further by the again great malicious vocals of Blom. The song like its predecessor is an ever evolving fire of imagination and irresistible invention with a seamless fluidity and descriptive majesty.
Through the outstanding While Life Lies, a track with a deliciously haunting but welcoming keys led opening embrace being subsequently forced into the blackened grasp of a doom laded fluctuating inferno rife with sonic captivation for a sweet and sour taste, and the equally impacting The Battle Fought, the release offers an enthrallment which carves up and sears the senses whilst leaving them basking greedily in a creativity which is pure sonic alchemy. The second of the pair and shortest track on Rites Of Separation at just short of seven minutes, is a black metal intensity with a predatory storm of energy and psyche twisting invention pervading its spiteful atmosphere, and another dramatic treat.
Closing on one final and the most extensive exploratory experiment upon thoughts and senses in the scintillating emotive violation Awaiting, the album leaves one lost in fully awoken thought, Rites Of Separation offering a canvas which colours the imagination yet leaves a wealth of visual contemplation to be completed by the listener. At times tracks do stretch limits with their length, though not always in time used but the amount of rich invention at work making moments occasionally hard to absorb, though as mentioned each return unveils more depths to devour so not really a long term issue. Agrimonia have provided an album which employs every responsive atom of the listener for a wholly stimulating and engrossing experience, a release all metal fans should get involved with.
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