Agiel – Dark Pantheons (Deepsend Records)

Sunday, 2nd February 2014
Rating: 7/10

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?  Agiel released Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign well over a decade ago on Unique Leader.  A blistering technical death metal release, the band used some orchestral/symphonic elements to give some identity, but it mostly took a back seat to the guitar wizardry.  The band resurfaced again in 2013, and Dark Pantheons serves as a re-introduction for the band.  Fittingly enough, the band took songs from the afore-mentioned full-length and re-imagined them as their current sound.  Listening to the old tracks alongside these newly-minted ones will give evidence that these are much more than simple re-recordings but completely reworked to give the band a stronger identity.

In comparison with Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign, the songs here are not “tech-death with a side of keyboards” but completely symphonic death metal.  The guitars still retain a technical edge, but the symphonic elements (keyboards, choirs, etc) are fully integrated in a manner similar to bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse.  There’s a lot of stuff going on at any one moment, from crushing riffs (“Deeds Rendered Upon the Flesh”) to choral and clean vocals (“Serpent Masquerade”) to intensely symphonic passages (“Dark Pantheons”) with a level of complexity and integration that deserves mention.

Ultimately, the one thing keeping Agiel down at this point is the production of Dark Pantheons.  As previously mentioned, there is a lot going on at any particular moment, and unfortunately, it feels as if all of the elements are trying to compete for the same breathing space.  The symphonic elements often overpower the guitars and drop them to a secondary level, while the drums seem too prevalent (much like Fleshgod).  This jarring feeling is most prominently felt on opening track, “Dark Pantheons,” which could be detrimental in establishing new fans, not wanting to venture further into the EP.

Given a proper production, Agiel are on to something with their newly fashioned sound.  These old songs have been given a completely new lease on life, and it will be interesting to see where Agiel goes with completely new material.

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