When it comes to symphonic black metal, I tend to be pretty picky. Bands often seem to fall under what I’ll define as “Spirit Halloween symphonic bm”; outrageous theatrics and overproduced orchestrations that cover up the fact that the black metal underneath is not very interesting, or overtake the heavy aspects of the music entirely. Unless your band name is Arcturus or Transcending Bizarre?, I’ll take the simpler symphonics that serve as the backing for In the Nightside Eclipse or Odium over what a lot of others in the genre have to offer. Argenthorns have taken inspiration from a number of ’90s symphonic black metal stalwarts to craft music that, while certainly bombastic and over the top, is still intriguing enough to warrant a closer inspection with their debut full-length The Ravening.
A topic that has been hotly debated among the 9C crew recently has been the efficacy of bands that clearly wear their influences on their sleeve, and whether or not these artists are actually bringing anything new to the table. It’s easy enough to hit the nostalgia button in order to evoke a response from the listener, but when done correctly it can both revive an old sound and push it forward. So where does Argenthorns fit on this scale? It’s clear from the get-go that they look to Bal-Sagoth for inspiration, given the heaping dose of booming, deep spoken word found throughout the album, and as the music begins to reveal itself we’re also treated to more than a bit of power metal just as the aforementioned band championed in their brand of symphonic black metal.
This obvious influence aside, The Ravening otherwise treats listeners to an eerie, whimsical, baroque atmosphere backed by a dizzying barrage of riffs that doesn’t really let up until the appropriately titled funerary second movement of “I Incursion II a Procession of Spectres.” While certainly not a prog metal album, the constant twists and turns the riffs take keeps things interesting while also fitting with the bombastic, melodramatic theme. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s more than a few instances of harpsichord and what sounds like theremin to boot!
While The Ravening certainly has shades of “Spirit Halloween symphonic bm” throughout, there’s still enough going on here to keep the listener engaged (if you’re able to keep up with its pace). Neither pushing the boundaries of symphonic black metal nor presenting an outdated sound, fans of the aforementioned genre or those looking for a more extreme dose of power metal will likely find something to their liking contained within this spooky symphony.
The Ravening will be available April 21 through Avantgarde Music. For more information on Argenthorns, check out their Facebook page.