Algaion - _Exthros_
(Pulverised Records, 2010)
by: Mark Dolson (9 out of 10)
Singapore's mighty Pulverised Records have done it again, proffering the metal masses yet another classic and high-quality Swedish metal release. Algaion's third full-length release, _Exthros_ (meaning "enemy" in Greek), is the follow-up to last their long-player, _General Enmity_ from 1997; however, we shouldn't forget their debut, _Oimai Algeiou, the _Herostratic Legacy_ EP from 2001, and the _On the Reach of Zaphonia_ demo from 2002. Now, before I begin my review of _Exthros_, let me provide -- if you will -- a brief historic and sentimental prelude regarding my relationship with Algaion.

During the summer of 1995 (June, to be more specific) I had asked my friend to purchase a few CDs at the legendary HMV in downtown Toronto. The list I had given him included the following 1995 releases: Dan Swanö's Nightingale _The Breathing Shadow_, Vinterland's _Welcome My Last Chapter_, Ghostorm's _Frozen in Fire_, and Algaion's _Omai Algeiou_. Upon his return, I was surprised to find that he was able to get everything on my list, save the Vinterland CD (dang). Over the course of the next few days I had listened to all of the CDs, and had quite a favourable opinion of them all. I remember telling my friend on the phone one night that I liked the Algaion CD quite a bid, but the only problem was that the band used a drum-machine; which I couldn't stand at the time, with the notable exception of Summoning's _Minas Morgul_ and Rotting Christ's _Thy Might Contract_ and _Non Serviam_ albums.

What I liked about Algaion's debut was its frenetic and furious demeanour. Each song featured waves and waves of tremolo picking and hysteric vocals; and with each melody came the dark and shifting picture of Algaion's vision (or what I thought was their vision at the time): portraying the darkness of nature and humankind. Although I didn't get into it too much at the time, Algaion's second full-length, _General Enmity_, saw the band really slowing things down a lot. Most of the songs, to my ears, sounded like mid-paced melodic Swedish death metal, save for the vocals, which sounded quite unique, albeit still screechy in a black metal sort of way.

Now, on to the present situation. You're probably thinking: "come on already, what does the new Algaion sound like, dude"? Well, OK, to put it simply, _Exthros_sounds like a combination of the band's first and second full-lengths, with a healthy dose of Rotting Christ (especially in terms of Sakis' trademark riffing of the fast staccato, palm-muting variety) circa _Thy Mighty Contract_ and _Non Serviam_. And you know what? It works perfectly, as this album is simply amazing, and never boring over the course of its eleven tracks. I have to say that _Exthros_ is indeed refreshing in a very nostalgic '90s sort of sense -- which is definitely my cup of tea (or blood?). Algaion aren't setting out to re-construct the foundations of black / death metal at all here; they're just playing some tight, extreme metal with an excellent melodic and slightly melancholic sensibility.

On to some specifics: session drummer Robert Eng of Constructdead fame re-introduces the art of the blast-beat, yet balances out his percussive repertoire with some quick-footed double-bass lines, and some nice grooves and fills to keep things interesting (I'm so glad they didn't use a drum machine on this one). Mattias Kamijo's guitar tone is thick, heavy and sharp; which is brought to the fore nicely with the tasteful additions of tremolo picking scattered throughout the album. And every so often, we get a taste for Mattias' ability to deliver some excellent and poignant solos. In terms of vocals, Mårten Björkman's voice sounds similar to Grutle's from Enslaved (latter era), those being high-pitched growls, but with a slightly softened approach. There aren't too many keyboards used on this album, much like the previous efforts by the band; however, you will find minimal use of piano on the song "Nature our Slave".

To bring this review to an appropriate close, I would say that if you're interested in early '90s black metal, especially Rotting Christ, make sure to pick this up and give it a try. _Exthros_ is a pretty varied affair: switching from blast-beats to slowed down atmospheric parts which, as stated above, never get boring, and never give the listener the urge to skip to the next track. Just on the topic of Rotting Christ: if you're a huge fan of their earlier releases, you'll be glad to know that track nine of _Exthros_ is a cover of Rotting Christ's amazing "Sign of Evil Existence" from _Thy Mighty Contract_. And, no offence to RC, but I find Algaion's interpretation of the song to be almost better than the original (probably because we can hear it they way it's supposed to sound: with real drums).


(article published 4/9/2010)

11/17/1997 D Schinzel Algaion: Questions From the Temple of Pain
11/17/1997 D Schinzel 6 Algaion - General Enmity
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