Argus - Argus
Shadow Kingdom Records
Epic Doom Metal
8 songs (54'14")
Release year: 2009
Shadow Kingdom Records
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

It is certainly true that doomy pensive music fit my recent mood well, so given a chance and a choice my hand reached out, almost subconsciously, for metal of that ilk from the pile I considered for reviewing. And in that regard Pittsburgh based utterly underground and very dedicated Shadow Kingdom Records have issued a number of quality doom releases. Hailing from Franklin, PA, only 50 or so miles away, Argus may have seemed like a homey pick at first, but not to those who have had a chance to experience their quality 2007 demo on Bland Hand Records. That recording, bearing the likes of Bending Time, Eternity (Beyond, Part I) and The Damnation of John Faustus, was more than serious justification of Argus’ prowess and intentions.

Delivering on the demo’s strength, and including four tracks from it on the self-titled full-length debut, the Pennsylvanians remain true to their original metal convictions. Fans of Trouble and Candlemass will find quite a few comfort points with Argus, given their propensity for layered swaying-in-the-wind riffs and protracted prog-tinted instrumental runs. At the same time there is an epic power metal track which can be traced in the album, especially in the melodies of Devils, Devils and From Darkness Light as well as vocal approach of Butch Balich (more on him later). Argus would be absolutely fitting on the Holy Dio compilation with Eternity, yet can take a trip down a more distant Sabbath memory lane with None Shall Know the Hour and its philosophical lyrics. Starting with that piece the album took on a doomier note, the monstrous cut The Damnation of John Faustus, to which an intro was added, leading the way. Even a brief staccato in the closer The Outsider eventually comes to a grinding doom halt, voices in thy head picking up until the final acceleration leads into tight rhythm guitar/bass/double kick drums heaviness. The in-between instrumental The Effigy Is Real is another note bending heavy piece, with Jason Mucio’s solo trying to jar it loose.

Speaking of the long solo runs on the album, I can see the opinion being split, just like my reaction was at times. No doubt, the amount of shredding will testify to the level of Argus’ musicianship. Rarely does a young band possess this much skill and ability. Positioned against the firm rhythm section (powered by former Abdullah drummer Kevin Latchaw, it is nice to see that he has found a home), which shifts and rolls with precision, wondering leads provide a counterpoint. Yet, where the 3 min long instrumental closing of From Darkness Light truly brings the song home with a culmination, it does distract in Bending Time, where I would love to hear more of those implacable hammering riffs.

Also, if instrumental complex breakdowns to vocalized melodic riffing and sing-along choruses ratio could be tilted more towards the latter, I would not mind at all as this would only give vocalist Butch Balich more time to shine. Having fronted Pittsburgh doomsters Penance in the past, the man is a crowning jewel of Argus. Appearing more grounded, without Messiah Marcolin’s drama, he can still masterfully modulate his manly voice, reaching higher ground effortlessly when needed (From Darkness Light).

Something which could have been a John Brenner (Revelation) hand me down, Argus genuinely surprises with the level of its maturity and ability to completely hold your interest on its own merits, all within the boundaries drawn between classic doom and epic heavy metal.

Killing Songs :
Devils, Devils; From Darkness Light, The Damnation of John Faustus, The Outsider
Alex quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Argus that we have reviewed:
Argus - From Fields of Fire reviewed by Alex and quoted 89 / 100
Argus - Beyond the Martyrs reviewed by Alex and quoted 79 / 100
Argus - Boldly Stride the Doomed reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
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