AGABAS are a six-piece band from Norway who comprise of Sondre Sørensen Brønstad (vocals), Oskar Myrseth (Guitar), Jarand Aga Baas (Guitar), Jens Roberts (Clarinet), Johan Jamtfall Eriksen (Bass) and Eirik Torjus Bakken (Drums). They style themselves “Deathjazz for your soul”. Initially I thought I’d read the genre wrong in someway. Eventually it became clear that I didn’t, this is indeed an unholy blend of Jazz in the style of people like John Coltraine and Ornette Coleman, and then fusing them with Death Metal. It’s exactly as interesting as it sounds.
Prior to my first time hearing this new self titled EP, I really was not sure what to expect. I had an inkling that it would be smooth walking basslines, probably some sultry clarinet and vocals with Death Metal themes in the lyrics. Basically I imagined it as a more jazzy, more horrifying version of ULVER’s Shadows Of The Sun.
The album opens with Sorrowful that definitely has the impression of being more metal than jazz. However, it then breaks and has this really mellow feel, which is exactly what you imagine when you think of jazz. In comes that walking bassline, and the sultry clarinet before breaking into a riff that definitely feels more like Doom than Death. The slow rhythm and the flanger on the lead guitar create this really relaxed ambience that you find yourself just steadily nodding along to.
Tussmørke follows on picking the speed up but having the clarinet in the background to create an almost mystical quality. This is before it is dropped, the guitars and drums come to a peak and disappear. This is replaced with a much more acoustic sound wherein Roberts finally gets a chance to showcase his skills on the instrument with a very pleasing solo and then the distorted elements come back along with the squealing, wild sound that you expect from a brass or woodwind player really letting themselves feel the music comes in and merges perfectly with the harsh sounds.
The next track is Guiding Light that is definitely one for fans of STIMPY LOCKJAW in that it sounds like jazz made by people who had the vague concept explained to them and completely ignored it. From an artistic perspective, I can really get behind this song by it feels too disjointed for me to actually start relaxing and enjoying in the same way I did with other songs on this EP.
The final offering on this release is Kulda in which the opening returns to the heavy sensibilities that the first track had so much so that it is the least jazzy song on the record in my opinion.
I think the main problem with this release is that it doesn’t lean into the jazz side of things hard enough I can hear the John Coltrane and Miles Davis influences. Maybe the issue is just that it is such a short release. I feel like they need more spots to feature that sound because this is really cool and when it all comes together. You feel the strangeness of “Hey, this metal band is playing jazz for some reason” it feels like you are engaged in something special.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Agabas is out now.
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