In the multifaceted, richly nuanced world of metal, it’s something of a delight to find a record that has true cross-genre appeal. Sure, history has thrown us some real perennial favourites from NWOBHM or thrash – like Judas Priest’s Painkiller or Metallica’s Master of Puppets – but on the more extreme end of the spectrum, this doesn’t happen as often. Possibly the best contender in this category would be Celtic Frost’s Monotheist, with its death-doom-goth-black appeal ticking the boxes of just about anybody with black jeans and some angst to spare.
Drawing heavily from this dark and putrid well of inspiration is Agnes Vein’s Deathcall, however: an equally varied, crushing slab of gloom that deserves attention from just about every port of call of the guitar rock journey. Chin-out, horns-up, head-bopping riffs? Hell yeah. Inhuman growls offset by stunningly pure clean vocals? Ditto. Ponderous, unstoppable rhythms? In spades. Malevolent, socially reprehensible themes? Check, check, check and check. If the sludgy doom on “Vultures Hymn” isn’t your thing, stick around for the visceral attack on the title track’s chorus. And if that doesn’t quite do it for you either, the Neurosis-esque atmospheres on “Sovereign Star” may change your mind. Still not convinced? Try the deceptively simple yet still dynamic arrangement on the 11-minute epic “The Golgotha Entanglement.”
And I could go on.
“Vultures Hymn” occupies that liminal space somewhere between metal and psychedelic that only the best doom bands achieve.
Deathcall is, quite obviously, more than the sum of its parts and an impressive achievement, given the band’s long and turbulent history. Nine years have passed since Soulship laid its bleak (and heavy) hand on our shoulders and the intervening years have been marked by introspection and, it seems, a more traditional approach to songwriting. While its predecessor may have been a more effective vehicle for channelling the avant-garde nature of Celtic Frost, Deathcall is a superior holistic product and a more accessible one, to boot. While its foundation is unequivocally doom, it’s the type of doom that made Danzig’s Lucifuge or Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone classics: low-end, chugging Black Sabbath inspiration rather than worship, imbued with a substantially darker tone and with enough atmosphere to drown a Lovecraftian elder god.
When all is said and done, though, what makes Deathcall a real winner and a new firm favourite in my daily rotation lists is its sense of balance. There is the obvious gruff/clean vocal balance, but more importantly, there is what visual designers call “whitespace” – open areas countering the layered density of sound and allowing room to breathe. It’s these “softer” (I use the term with some trepidation given the overall weight of the record) passages that Agnes Vein shows mastery of in creating tension and rendering the heavy parts even heavier.
The stark black-and-white narrative footage intertwined with the vast emptiness of space communicates an otherworldly mystery on “Deathcall.”
Deathcall Track Listing:
2. Vultures Hymn (Praise Bounteous)
3. Sovereign Star
4. They Who Neared the Portals
5. Rara Null
6. The Golgotha Entanglement
Run Time: 40:50
Release Date: March 4, 2022
Record Label: Venerate Industries