What is in a label? A genre label I mean, not a record label. I’ve heard so many arguments recently about the need to put a band’s music in a very clearly defined pigeon hole so that everyone can feel comfortable with themselves. Now for example, take Agrimonia here. They are defined as a mixture of post rock, crust and sludge. Now that would leave them in a very clearly defined area of the market, yet when the very specific and demanding fans of post rock sludge crust arrive, they will end up disappointed, largely due to the absence of a sludge crust element. If bands and labels didn’t spend so much time trying to limit their audience through excessive pigeon-holing, then they may end up with more people trying out their music. Rant over. Now back to the show.
Agrimonia have been solidly plugging away since their inception in 2005 and have been working especially hard on the live front. ‘Rites of Separation’ marks their 3rd full length and certainly most complete work to date. It’s an understatement to say that this album is a grower, as I’ve completely scrapped the first draft of this review given that my opinion shifted so much; but I think that is as much to do with my initial expectations given what I expected this to be as it is the music itself. So what do we actually have here? Well the post rock assessment is pretty much spot on, with some very long winding and interesting tracks that bring to mind both Cult of Luna and Pelican. Once opening track ‘Talion’ kicks in, the quality of the musicianship on display is blindingly obvious with its catchy riff and slightly offbeat time signature. The guitars of Pontus and Magnus provide a pairing that seems to have an innate understanding, and given the excellence of the rhythm section with drummer Bjorn really adding flair to the percussion, and the ever reliable Martin Larsson on bass, the whole musical ensemble remind me of Enslaved at times, and that is high praise indeed.
Where Agrimonia fall back a bit for me is in the vocals. Now Christina is by no means a bad vocalist. She has a lot of anger and rage in there and projects it admirably, but the problem is that is does not vary enough to hold the interest. If you take the aggression of Angela Gossow and cross that with Cult of Luna’s Klas Rydberg, you would not be too far from the truth. Whilst the first track is clearly a great piece of work, I was so numbed to Christina’s relentless single tone onslaught that on the first few listens that later songs on the album passed me by as everything merged together. The trick was for me to tune out the vocals in my head so I could appreciate the remainder of the album. There are some great songs on there musically, particularly ‘While Life Lies’ and the epic ‘Awaiting’; but when you have one tone being relentlessly barked at you for an hour it gets tiresome. Throw some vocal variation into the mix and these guys could be awesome. As it stands, this remains a good album, but I can only really recommend it outright to those who do not make too many demands in the vocal department.
(7/10 Lee Kimber)