It doesn’t come up often that I get to do a follow up on a band that I’ve reviewed but now fate has gifted me the opportunity and I’m eager to see how they have developed as artists.
A lifetime ago in the distant space year of 2019 I reviewed AGABAS’ self titled EP. Whilst I found that release to be interesting I ended my review of it with these words “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.”
Well now they have eight tracks to play with on Voluspå and enough time has passed that maybe they’ve found the perfect blend. The album opens with Children of Adam, a song that’s very reminiscent of GOJIRA’s L’enfant Sauvage. The jazz elements aren’t obvious in this piece aside from some odd rhythms. The clarinet is used as a textural device rather than a feature creating a tension that’s quite unlike things I’ve heard before. Perhaps it’s the subversion of my own expectations there that causes that? Or have AGABAS done something deeply clever?
In comparison to their EP the first few tracks lean heavily towards the progressive death metal side of things. The jazzy moments are there but weaved throughout instead of here’s a block of metal and now here’s a block of jazz. Midway through the fourth track Father they intensify the jazz bringing it out of the maelstrom of instrumentation behind it. It’s really well done. The transition to and from it is smoother than you would expect but also more interesting than a clean break. Harsh vocals introduce it like a drum announcing an arrival.
The Death Of Jazz To Come is an interesting piece which starts off with a similar feel to MILES DAVIS’ Blue In Green. Long lazy notes, played breathily with great emotion before transforming into a discordant haze. At a little over two minutes long it provides a needed break. Although on some of my listening sessions it feels more like an elaborate introduction to the following track. I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing though. Till Dawn picks up motifs and switches between traditional metal features and jazz leads. In choosing with pinpoint accuracy where to focus at any moment it creates a feeling that’s really special.
This release is definitely a step in the right direction though I think that they should tread carefully. They have a unique sound but constantly run the risk of becoming something more ubiquitous. They’ve definitely progressed as artists and their vision has solidified somewhat, and whilst I don’t think it’s quite complete yet I think that all involved should be very pleased with this release.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Voluspå will be released 30th April 2021.
Find AGABAS on Facebook.