Beyond the Martyrs

Written by: EW on 28/09/2013 19:44:44

Having read of Argus' name through trustworthy sources deep in the metal underground, from the kind of people who know a proper good heavy metal band when they hear one, my interest in this rising American troupe was well-founded by a couple of listens to 2011's "Boldly Stride the Doomed" before "Beyond the Martyrs" arrived in my inbox. Taking their name from Greek mythology, Argus play an epically-tinged modern take on the classic heavy metal mould - infact, allow me to use 'true metal' without conjuring up images of sword-wealding johnny-come-latelies, for musically (and visually) Argus are so much more than this. Positioned close to the equally true and under-recognised Slough Feg the music of Argus is carefully constructed around driving lead riffs, evidently identifiable song structures of chorus, verse and lead and Butch Balich's masculine, strong vocals. For a more widely known comparator think Grand Magus, both in the vocal departments where strength and power rein and how the classic metal of both never descends into the kind of self-defeating parody that is the bane of countless power/heavy metal bands clogging up the summer festival line-ups each year.

After a delicate opening in which a lead guitar wails atop a passage of clean chords, "By Endurance We Conquer" bursts into life with the kind of change in tempo that a) shows this band mean business, and b) know how to write a blistering song, albeit by way of significant influence from one Iron Maiden. What follows when Balich frees his pipes with "1914 and four years from England" is the onset of one of the best songs you or I will hear in metal this year; the natural flow through the solo and group vocals in the chorus is sensational while the drum performance is spot on to accompany those galloping Maiden-esque rhythms. In terms of fist-pumping openers to an album it really doesn't get any better than this.

Successor "No Peace Beyond the Line" gives itself some breathing space before launching into another piledriving riff, the type that on first listen will instantly grab anyone with a passing interest in metal in what feels like a eulogy direct from unseeing gods of metal. "The Hands Of Time Are Bleeding" forms around a slower, doom tempo that recalls the construction of epic Candlemass "Nightfall" era cuts before flourishing with a collection of subtly intricate dual guitar leads towards the end. After such a forceful duo the album dips in quality slightly, but only slightly, for as Balich opens "Trinity" with "We reached into the obscure to change the course of the world" you start to get the sense that "Beyond the Martyrs" has the potential the change the course of the metal world at least. Take the intricate structures of each song, noticing how each seems to last longer than they really are and such a volume of rewarding riffs and you will start to understand all the praise.

Argus' classic metal influences shine through on "Four Candles Burning" where the natural flow of the chorus lines sets my brain to work comparing it to classic Dio and Maiden material, while "The Coward's Path" initially resembles the lead tendencies of Týr before breaking into another pounding riff so good it would stand out on any Candlemass record. The vigour which dominated the early part of the record (or side A for vinyl fetishists) is brought down to earth by this track and the closing title track, although "Cast Out All Raging Spirits" in the middle of this sandwich cannot go without mention - it's early uptempo soloing leads cleanse the soul in the manner espoused in the lyrical theme.

Formulated at the perfect length, absolutely devoid of any filler and produced with each instrument free to speak and generate the band an identity of their own there is no wonder I sing so highly of "Beyond the Martyrs". Other acts in recent years have been capable of putting together elements of this for a handful of songs only, but to hear an album with such consistency is rare. What impression Argus will make in the wider metal landscape is questionable when the average fan seems to show no interest in imagination or such bloody integrity but if one day everyone wakes up to listen to those underground few singing Argus' praises they will find a classic record waiting in the name of "Beyond the Martyrs".


Download: By Endurance We Conquer, No Peace Beyond the Line
For The Fans Of: Grand Magus, Slough Feg, Candlemass, Atlantean Kodex
Listen: Facebook

Release date: 01.10.2013
Cruz Del Sur Records

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