November 23, 2012

Agruss - Morok

Guest review by Eric Yanyo from Valley of Steel.

Agruss is from the town of Rivne (Рівне), Ukraine, just a short distance away from one of that country’s nuclear power plants. Furthermore, that town is only about 400km away from the town of Chornobyl (Чорнобиль), or more commonly known by its Russian name Chernobyl (Чернобыль). As you are probably aware, that town — now almost completely abandoned — was very close to the site of another Ukranian nuclear power plant, until an explosion occurred there, releasing nuclear contaminants all over the surrounding area.

Says Agruss, “Morok is a joyless vision of the tragedy that is happening around us. Death is already there and we are standing on the brink of the Abyss.” Living in such close proximity to a constant reminder of mankind’s destructive potential has understandably left the band feeling very hateful and vindictive. They describe a harmonious symphony that occurs in nature, saying that just one element of that symphony has chosen to play his own part, resulting in a dissonance that has upset the otherwise perfect balance.

Fading in with the sound of a chilly breeze, the dulcet tones that open the first track, “Damnation,” set the landscape for the forthcoming tale. But as we soon discover, there is very little peace and tranquility to be found here. An explosion of drums and guitars carry the vocals — a blend of ethereal ghostly shrieks with subterranean barked growls — with everything soaked in enough reverb to convey the barrenness and emptiness of a post-apocalyptic nightmare. For well over an hour, the pattern continues: occasional soft, mournful sounds and echoes rise out of the silence, only to be swallowed whole by the terrible emotion that comprises the band’s allegory for mankind. Whether it would be worse to be among those killed by a catastrophic disaster, or to be left alive, trying to survive in a land that is poisoned and dying — the venomous emanations of this record seem to express sufficient rage for both, in songs such as “Damnation” and “Punishment for All,” while simultaneously mourning the living and the dead, in some of the more atmospheric and sullen moments of songs like “Fire the Saviour from Plague” or “When the Angels Fall.”

The real centerpiece of the album, though, is the suite “Under the Snow” which makes up the final three tracks. Part I mainly consists of heavy-hitting doomy death metal riffs, with the vocalists howling with blind fury; Part II begins even more down-tempo, with even the drums accompanying the sludgey doom of the guitars, only to explode into a blastbeat session with screamed vocals even less intelligible than before, as well as the eerie inclusion of what sounds like the chiming of church bells. Finally, by Part III, everything has been ground down into patently post-metal territory: over the course of these final fifteen minutes, all that remains are some atmospheric sound effects behind a dreary repeated guitar motif, with the addition of some agonizing wails coming from such a distance that they might actually be from beyond the grave. The cautionary parable having reached its culmination, the vocals here seem to be representing the cries of the repentant after it’s already too late to do any good. Eventually, all else is silenced but the howling of the wind through a land of nothingness.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Note: This review is adapted from the original published here. Morok contains 9 songs, of which only 5 are streaming on the Bandcamp. If you buy the album you get all 9 tracks.

  1. This is easily one of the top 10 albums of 2012, no doubt about it.

    1. Yeah it is great. Love the balance between the raging parts and the more atmospheric bits.

  2. I forget how I originally stumbled across this, but I've been listening to it a lot. It's another one of those bands that manages to mash a whole bunch of things together (DM gutterals, BM screeches, sludgy sounds, atmospheric sounds, etc.), sometimes even in the same song, and makes it sound completely natural.

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