Ah, the sweet, soft breeze off the Mediterranean sea. A freshly baked Melanouri on your plate surrounded by fresh tomatoes, lightly salted and dressed with the finest Greek olive oil. To your right a man sits on the terrace above the beach. His John Stamos-like dark locks flap in the cool ocean breeze. Next to him a topless woman, beautiful and olive skinned, flips through a book as she nibbles on a freshly honeyed piece of Baklava. This is the Greece you have seen on the television—the Greece you would pay many Drachmas to visit in leisure and luxury.
But there is another Greece—a much darker one. One that’s produced such metal geniuses as Dead Congregation, Nightfall, Septic Flesh, and Rotting Christ. This is the Greece that gave birth to Kult of Taurus, who’ll be releasing their second album, Adversarial Paths: The Sinister Essence, later this month. And while the album isn’t the most original thing in the world, it shows that the band is certainly capable of something greater in the future.
Hailing from Thessaloniki, Kult of Taurus have released only one LP prior to this effort. That album, Divination Labrynths, went largely unnoticed and mostly without acclaim by the metal community. Adversarial Paths should make significantly more noise as this quintet has embarked on a quest to create their own unique blend of black metal.
The vocals take inspiration across the board: from the classic Burzum and Bathory type to more avant-garde practitioners like Aldrahn (The Deathtrip, Thorns). To me, it’s the vocals that carry the album—this is where the band shows some inventiveness. They’re not only diverse, but also powerful, confident and supremely wicked in a way that’s sure to keep the listener enthralled. The album opens with church bells, marching and chanting—nothing shocking here—but the real fun begins at the second cut, and first real track, “Black Embrace.” Kult of Taurus creates a supremely old school feel and ambiance through galloping guitars laden heavy with a distorted crunchiness. The band immediately displays their thematically consistent songwriting ability as “Black Embrace” covers six-and-a-half-minutes without losing focus.
This is not to say that the album doesn’t take a few odd turns here and there. Thrash influences pop up, as does the occasional hint of straight-up, old school metal. But at the core of the album is an appreciation for the legendary foundations of black metal. At times, with tracks like “Through Lunar Wombs” and “Cordially Beautiful,” Kult of Taurus utilizes stark contrast to enhance a mood. Blast beats dissolve into atmospheric guitars before returning to the monotonous drilling of a blast beat. Not surprisingly, those two tracks are the strongest on the album. Later, tracks like “The Piercing Conjunctions” reveal an oddly appropriate affinity for Dødheimsgard—a connection they clearly embrace, having tapped Vicotnik to mix and master Adversarial Paths.
The final track, “Arch of Exceedance,” spans nearly ten full minutes but shows promise despite its length. Throughout the piece, the instrumentation creates a drone-like experience while the drums keep a groove just riding. All of this leaves room for vocalist Sarpedon to exercise his versatility and dominance over the tracks laid beneath him. It creates an utterly intoxicating conclusion to the record. Most importantly, it reveals another layer to the onion and opens the door to some inventiveness not found throughout the earlier parts of the LP.
Adversarial Paths is, at its root, an homage to old school black metal. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the album isn’t progressive and it’s certainly not that original. Still a young, raw quintet, they have yet to really refine their style and find a voice that is entirely their own; they are, at this point, a mish-mash of their all-too-recognizable influences. The album’s certainly enjoyable, but overall falls short of expectations. I was hoping to see Kult of Taurus have a true coming out party here; they’re capable of so much more, and hopefully they will seize the reins on future works.