Archemoron issued forth a cracking album in 2015 with Sulphur and Fire – both nuanced and powerful, like all the best Greek black metal. It turned a few heads and, even though I’d argue that it should have received more recognition than it did, at the very least we can say it paved the way for this. Because the quartet have returned unbowed with 81 minutes of blackened steel and martial precision filled with so many elements of black metal history that its regular 10 minute tracks drift by like the fleeting celebrations of victory on Mediterranean winds. Archemoron manage to encompass everything from Manowar, Bathory and, perhaps most of all, Immortal, but while also hauling in serious influences from the Greek scene and the likes of Zemial and Varathron. That said, it’s impossible to see where and how its all been spliced together as band mastermind Melikertiis – formerly of Greek thrash band Ancestor, which seems to have morphed into this current incarnation – picks and chooses all the best elements from various ingredients into a rousing, soul-affirming battle cry.

Uplifting, stomping melodies that would be enough to whet the appetite of any barbarian horde? Check. Freezing cold riffs and vocals as if ripped from the icy mountains of Blashyrkh? Check. Guitar solos soar and fall, arriving like a herald of black sails rising just off the Cyclades and drifting through more traditional rock sounds of 1970s trailblazers Thin Lizzy. There’s also an impressive use of varied vocals and the knack for breakneck speed that proves Archemoron have what it takes to make eyes bleed with the best of them. The band provides all this and a double dose of atmosphere that feels so effortless despite an album length that even out-strips its previous effort and would risk sounding laboured in the hands of mere mortals. Yes, while double albums, can make you absentmindedly wonder which tracks might be condensed, merged or simply left on the cutting room floor, the opposite is true with Year of the Harvester. From the opening track Somewhere Beyond North it’s all there in various forms in what can only be described as progressive for all its endless toying with musical arrangements that then switches into pummelling might.

Cut scene excerpts of waves lapping on the shore, whistling winds and acoustic passages are thankfully kept to an absolute minimum (although, just for the record, those things are probably not something I will ever get bored of but they can leave things feeling padded). Yes, this kind of epicness has been tried many times before but perhaps with too much emphasis on tricks and gimmicks whereas Archemoron have simply poured themselves headlong into writing serious tunes which unashamedly revering heroes past and present. Tunes like Those of the Suffering that pours praise on the Sons of Northern Darkness but while saluting the Greek tradition with a swaying breakdown that calls the belligerent heat of Spartan plains into those frozen mountains; and the lingering dirge Crawling Plague which pulls you down into a spiral of doom-laden blackness.

Each and every moment of Harvester is used to the maximum by Archemoron, either to crack into a powerful rage, blistering melody or soulful segues. Suggesting this is 81 minutes and no filler is quite a claim to make when much of this may at first glance have been done before. But slap on Year of the Harvester and tell me I’m wrong. This is a confident release of now battle-hardened adherents of the darker side of metal and demands the attention of anyone who’s even had a fleeting fondness of Greek black metal and anything beyond.

(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)