Thursday, August 31, 2017

Album Review: Argus - From Fields Of Fire

Has it really been four years since the last Argus album? It doesn't feel like it, nor does it feel like this band has been around as long as they have, considering that I remember hearing their debut  album when it came out. In these years, they have continued to frustrate me as a band that has a great sound, but one that can never put the pieces together by writing a great album to go along with it. Combine that with their lead singer taking part in one of the most boring albums already released this year (Aldruni/Balich), and I'm left scratching my head a bit as to what I should expect from Argus.

As is too typical, the record opens with two minutes of useless noise that supposedly 'sets the scene', but really just wastes my time and annoys me before I can even hear any of their music. If there isn't a real point to an introduction, they should be left on the cutting room floor. Seriously, they don't do what the bands want them to.

Argus sits in an odd place, straddling the line between traditional metal and doom. They have the stripped down guitar tone of an 80s band, and gallop along with those sorts of rhythms, but the tempos never get into high gear, and Balich's wail is pure early doom. And like both of those genres, Argus exists in a place where melody is a difficult word to understand. The press materials talk about catchy hooks, but those are hard to find here. Argus' understanding of melody is the same as it's ever been, and it's why that record I mentioned in my introduction sits so low on my list of releases I've heard this year. Balich simply doesn't write interesting things for himself to sing.

He is a fine vocalist, don't get me wrong. For the style of music, his voice works very well. The problem is that he does what a lot of talented singers do and assumes that simply belting out notes for long stretches of time is interesting enough to listen to. It's not. We need melodies that have flow and movement to them, something that can grab attention on their own, independent of the singer. Argus has never been good in that department, and they aren't this time either. Their songs are instrumentally solid, but let down by vocals that are lethargic.

Argus has been around long enough that they should have shown more growth by now. I've given them a chance every time out, and they deliver the same product time and time again. Now if you like what they're doing, that's great news. But since I'm someone who thinks they could use a more dynamic approach to their songwriting, it's frustrating. There's still all the tools for something great in there, but Argus has never figured out how to put it all together.

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