If you believe metal is dying because of countless metalcore clones stealing air from "real metal", think again. Or rather, little labels like Code 666 should make you do so. First Ne Obliviscaris was an indication that metal is nowhere near demise as long as there are small and/or independent labels leading the way for innovation and raw originality. Next up is Ukraine's Agruss, named thus, assumable, after a "Star Wars" villain from "Attack of the Clones" (funny how it relates to my previous point).
"Morok" is Agruss' debut, and, naturally, expectations are not high nor should they be. That is why the initial touch of this masterpiece of black metal depression, as they call it themselves, feels more like a concussion from Mike Tyson's punch than a debut from an unknown gloomy metal band. And whereas the skeleton and the core of this is, indeed, black metal, it borrows from several other genres, to include the dreaded metalcore, if ever so slightly. "Morok" is a frightening, beautiful and heavy album with shockingly high level of originality for a debut. Rumor has it that this might be just a first in the trilogy of albums, but I cannot say for sure, having no source to quote from.
One of the major advantages of this album is the sound, the CLIMATE, to be specific. It is very much akin to the original "Stormblåst" (Dimmu Borgir) CD, even if Agruss has otherwise very little, if anything besides, to do with the symphonic black masters, but superior to it the minute first powerful riff hits your face. It is, then, a perfect balance of "trve" vs. powerful and clear, a sound even Dimmu Borgir themselves could benefit immensely from if produced according to Agruss' blueprint.
To the extent that you take under consideration where these guys come from - Ukraine (pre-World War II Poland, post-WWII Soviet Republic) in the area of Czarnobyl (original native spelling) the place where nuclear accident produced misery still felt today, in comparison to our own, much milder in scope though potentially just as dangerous, Three Mile Island fuck up or the British Petrol reckless spill without any real ramifications to that giant sack of oily shit multinational behemoth (sorry, Nergal) as well as the very recent Japan/Tepco disaster, that sovetism and corporatism (aka fascism) produce much the same bullshit. Equally irreverent of common folk and the suffering it may cause it, both, extremes of left and right wing ideology, respectively, while claiming to balance individuality with public good, practically serve neither. In that setting, added the cry of rapidly dying and extinct nature vs. the haughty, Judeo-Christian religion book of genesis inspired "man appointed lord over nature by god", hubris of humanure kind (to borrow from Cattle Decapitation album title), in this setting, again, "Morok" sprawls forth with the now powerful slightly metalcorish wall of sound bolstered by some brutal death riffing, now gentle accoustic beautiful depression.
But it is when melancholic accoustic guitars hit with sadness and restrained anger that the album gets downright creepy. The mainly black metal schrieks, while not as asininely annoying as Dani Filth's (from Cradle of Filth) are still fairly close to South Park's Cartman variety. However, whereas Dani almost negates the pleasure of listening to otherwise great music, this vocal styling actually adds to the incredible atmosphere.
Funny, initially, I looked at the cover of "Morok" and thought "shitty, [trve] black in the vein of first Darkthrone recordings" but when I started listening to it, the depth of this album made my jaw hit the floor. Why, I haven't heard anything this compelling in the genre since "Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk" (by the one and only Emperor), with this many on a dime changes and fluent genre crossovers! The great thing about it, when Agruss is aggressive they are REALLY aggressive, but likewise, when melodic and epic they are truly MELODIC without sugary popish influence.
This band may just be the next best thing in extreme metal...if they trim the infinite atmospheric near instrumentals. They placed it at the end, so, technically, you could either act as though this was the end of it or press "1" on your CD player to reapply. However, this is a perfect example of less would be more and, because it's insanely long, my initial 5.5/6, which this deserves just as, if not more than, the Horizon Ablaze album, with which it bears similarity in the seemless brevity of skillful genre hopping, half of a point docked from the score. Other than that, though, this album is tits, as is code666 for unleashing some of the most original and innovative music to grace these ears in recent memory. Keep 'em coming and metal will stay as powerful and relevant as back in the day when we heard the first notes of "Hit the Lights" ("Kill 'Em All" by Metallica) yet little did know of the storm to come.
Rating: 5 / 6
Composed by Dethster4life