Imagine this: a lingua franca, a common language/sound, for black metal – something that unites the waves of the genre throughout the years by following a single, linear sound. While I personally think there is nothing common about black metal, since there is enough variability to keep you rooted on the spot, something unites the genre more and more outside of its sound. Could it be the way that music is presented to new listeners? Could it be that all black metal comes from one ancestor that has since expanded into what we know, write, and listen to today? Could it be the academic interest that has led to an exploration of the genre in a sociological perspective? Lord Agheros’s Koinè (Greek for “common”) aims to explore all of these questions musically, as several different dialects (or musical influences, in this scenario) have become part of the black metal blueprint nowadays.
One of the first things that I noticed about the album is that Koinè is less of what we would consider to be a black metal album and more of an atmospheric folk album with an instrumental touch. While harsh vocals and syncopated drumming are used throughout the album, it’s the backing choir, ambient nature, and the acoustic sounds that heavily reminds me of bands like Tristania, especially in their earlier albums. While this album may have elements of bands like Moonspell and Wolves in the Throne Room – it can be argued that the atmosphere is heavily ritualistic – it’s Tristania that comes to mind whenever I hear the vocals interplay with both the instruments and the atmosphere. In a sense, Koinè can be seen as a proto-black metal record, but not in the likes of Venom or Bathory. Instead, it has taken elements from established bands and has condensed it into a melting pot that leaves the listener both intrigued about the album’s intent and compelled into continued listening so they can follow the various musical threads.
In true Hellenic tradition, Lord Agheros has conceived Koinè to be an album that ties black metal to its past, present, and future – from the days of Venom and Bathory to the current “mainstream” outlook of what black metal actually is and can be.
Evolution, after all, is one of the main things that can keep a genre as fresh as it can allow itself to be.
Koinè also has this inherent intimacy underneath the atmospheric, ritualistic reverence it has for its inspirations, which pulls the listener in, allowing them to experience what a common black metal experience would sound like. It is a highly comfortable yet enriching experience, allowing for both immersion into and enjoyment of the concept. Because the album doesn’t have any sort of barrier into entry, it’s very simple to just listen to Koinè and let yourself drift in and out of its musical cadence. In exchange, Koinè is a rewarding experience unlike anything I have heard so far, matching the ritual strength and ambience of Hvile I Kaos’s Black Morning, Winter Green.
All in all, Koinè is a beautiful album, whose soaring vocals and superb instrumentation shine throughout its runtime. Although this might not meet everyone’s expectations and ideas of what a black metal album should be, Koinè transcends both genre and label convention, showing that a common sound can be assembled – it just takes a moment to do so.