In a time of ancient gods, warlords and why not, yes, probably warrior princesses. A time of wonder, magic and, yes again, weirdly, a time of no electricity but apparently some kind of generating device that could power amps for two or three guitars, a mic and a small recording studio. That is the time of Agatus – a couple of Greek chaps who’ve been around since the early 1990s and still until now only produced two albums. But what great albums to have produced. The 1996 Dawn of Martyrdom is a borderline classic and the 2002 follow up The Weaving Fates brushed up the sound into something bonded with a traditional metal ‘heroic’ style. Like a blackened version of Manilla Road – or a slightly less aggro version of the boys’ other outfit Zemial – it managed to hit the spot even if it would have been improved by a bit more consistency.
Nearly a decade and a half later and here we are with the enticingly named The Eternalist. Very much like its forerunner it assumes even more of that that heroic, mid-1980s traditional metal style and this time drops all but the barest of black metal influences. It’s still all there if you look closely enough (the low-fi production favoured of black metallions being a case in point) but The Eternalist otherwise sounds more like a perfect blend of Old Agatus with Manilla Road and Thin Lizzy. There’s something very 1970s about some of those guitar licks, occasionally drifting off into weaving journeys all of their own, but that grassroots metal sound of mid-80s Manilla Road – notably The Deluge – is clear and present. While there are also obvious comparisons with the likes of Iced Earth and Virgin Steele it’s fair to say that Agatus is actually trying to produce something different to all those things. It eschews the more accessible dimensions of the epic hordes preferring a more progressive approach.
The result is something that manages to be much more multidimensional than both its predecessors. The Eternalist is mythological-steeped and has a dreamlike quality when it manages to unleash itself into those lead guitar meanderings. This is an album to sink into and opening track The Eternalist allows you to do just that and is an excellent way to set the scene. Band members Eskarth the Dark One and Vorskaath are clearly out to prove that they have not picked things up again after 14 years for nothing and seem determined to evolve the sound. That said the next track The Invisible (Fifth Portal to Atlantis) is a bit of a throwback to Weaving Fates but things soon get back on track and by the fourth track Gods of Fire the band is combining new, old and whatever else it fancies packing in.
There are two or three tracks that I felt slowed things down a little too much (the slightly overdone chorus of At Dusk I Was Born for example). But there is also greatness here. The final three tracks are the most extended period where the band really gets stuck into creating another place and time and at that point it feels a shame that some of the tracks earlier in the album let things down a little. Because The Eternalist has a sound I really like and five or six of the 10 tracks produce something magical. Shedding most of the black metal has been good for the band, has put some clear water between Agatus and Zemial and allowed the band to indulge in its cleaner more heroic yearnings in a more focused way.
The downside is that it falls a little short and I kept wanting to stick my old Zemial albums. Zemial’s soaring In The Arms of Hades, for example, is something that would have been perfect wrapped in here, or something similar, but nothing quite gets us there. I hope that the band keeps up with this project because The Eternalist is teetering very close on the verge of something great for Agatus.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)