Christ Agony - Black Blood - (7.5/10)
Published on January 13, 2016
Christ Agony is a long running Polish black metal act that goes back about as far as most of the consequential bands of the northern European second wave, and maybe just a tad bit later than one of the prime movers Samael, with which they’ve shared some stylistic similarities. There is a fair amount of overlap with both their currently line up and several previous members and the seminal death metal act Vader, which should clue one in that this band has a fairly traditional air about them when it comes to their craft, though they haven’t been perpetually living in the mid-1990s either if one carefully considers the contents of their recent EP Black Blood, which comes with many of the trappings that tend to go with the modernization of black metal and its split into raw vs. atmospheric subsets, of which they tend to walk about perfectly in the middle thereof.
While I’m not terribly familiar with their older material, it’s pretty obvious that this band has updated their sound a bit to at least resemble the higher fidelity production work that has typified much of Dimmu Borgir’s and Watain’s most recent works, though they’ve definitely shied away from going for quite as pompous of a sound. It definitely has a heavier, chunkier guitar tone that would probably fall pretty close to an older death metal album if the riffs chugged a bit more often and there wasn’t as many overlays of keyboards, chanted clean vocals or acoustic guitar passages thrown in. But that’s sort of the charm of this otherwise standard plunge into the blackened dimension, it takes the cliche melodic contours, sepulchral muttering vocals and machine gun drums and balances them out in a manner where atmosphere and punch can coexist.
For the most part the three songs found on here are fairly similar in character, generally being fast in tempo and existing somewhere between sounding dreary and militaristic. The one that really stands out the most is the second “Coronation”, which spends a bit more time in down-tempo territory, has this massive acoustic section that rivals the ones heard on Watain’s The Wild Hunt in terms of quality while being a tad bit less Viking oriented in character, and has enough keyboards woven into the arrangement to occasionally resemble old school Emperor and Troll for much of the faster parts. All the same, the more driving and warlike demeanor of “Black Blood Ov Universe” and the heavier, death metal character of “Kingdom Ov Abyss” are solid songs that work about as well despite being a bit more uniform in flow.
Speaking as someone who hasn’t really heard much from this band, I do intend to take a look at their earlier work based on the contents found on this EP. It’s more of a well-rounded and middle of the road effort that focuses on quality of execution rather than taking any big risks, and it’s probably not the greatest thing that this band has ever put out, but it’s definitely something that will have a good degree of appeal to those that have embraced the more accessible and polished version of this style that began coming into prominence in the 2000s. The greatest castles in black metal’s history have tended to be cloaked in a thick fog, but more clearly defined and ornamented palaces like this one are well worth visiting from time to time.