Released: 1999, Season of Mist
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
Finally!!! The new album from Agressor, a quite underrated death-thrash band hailing from France! I have been trying to find this album for the last couple years. In fact, in 1996, Black Mark Production released a compilation entitled Black Mark Attack, which I purchased for an exclusive Edge of Sanity track. Once I became a fan of Agressor, I looked back at this compilation and discovered that they too were on it. Their track, “The Word of Dog”, was listed on the CD as “taken from Medieval Rights”. After an endless search for the album, I found out it was never even released! So I was more than overjoyed to see this album finally come out!
And let me tell you, this album is well worth the wait, because it absolutely crushes! After a couple albums of brutal death-thrash mayhem, Agressor decided to incorporate folk and symphonic elements into their sound, resulting in Symposium of Rebirth (1994…yes, six long years ago!). This album somewhat divided fans. Some hailed the new and unique direction Agressor had taken, while others favored the non-stop brutal armageddon of earlier material. The change was rather sudden, and the album took more than a few listens to really digest and appreciate what Agressor was trying to do. But with Medieval Rites, the band has really found the style they were looking for in 1994.
The album commences with the title track, a six-minute affair having a nice thunderstorm introduction, recorded very nicely. This song, with its wide variety, sets the stage for the rest of the album. Slow death-doom mixed with Agressor’s signature fast paced moments, also combining clean guitar, soulful lead work, varied vocals, and even the sound of a galloping horse, ringing bells, a bit of operatic vocals, and trombone to give the song a symphonic element. But if this song is too slow for you, “Bloodshed” will put in you your place! Back-to-roots speed with some extremely fast blast beats and guitarist Alex Colin-Tocquaine’s furious shredding! But then Agressor throws a curve ball with the first of four instrumentals: “The Woodguy Vs. the Black Beast”, a soft folk tune with acoustic guitars, percussion, and flute, reminding me of Atrocity’s folk tendencies on the Calling the Rain EP. I nominate this track for the Lord of the Rings soundtrack! But just as you get a little cozy, “The Sorcerer” crushes your cranium with its pounding rhythms and thrashing guitars. Pull out that air guitar and start thrashing! And listen to Alex’s solo near the end of the song…is that not awesome? The pace picks up again with “(I Am the) Spirit of Evil”, opening with killer guitar acrobatics and spicy drumming, then turning into a blackened metal assault. More guitar acrobatics lead off “Wandering Soul”, while the song then shifts to sinister riffing and plodding drumming, with plenty of inspiring lead guitar work and twisted vocals. Definitely a highlight on the album! “Tye-Melane Melda”, an almost-instrumental, follows and again takes on a folk sound with more acoustics and this time, violin. Too bad the track is so short. The album speeds up once again with “God From the Sky”, boasting some seriously ass-kicking staccato riffing and aggressiveness. And then, a cover of King Diamond’s “Welcome Home”! First of all, I am not a fan of King Diamond yet (yet being the key word there), so I cannot comment on how true they remained to the original. Second, I am sick of cover songs. But this track fucken rules! What else can I say? Alex has done an excellent job with the vocals, and there are even some female vocals present which adds a nice, unexpected touch. A third instrumental follows: “On Dolinde” is a short acoustic jam with percussion, harp, pipe (?), and some other weird sounds. Another soothing song, but again too short! “Burial Desecration” gets right down and dirty and blasts your head into oblivion with its blackened tendencies. More classic Agressor guitar work and great drumming! Totally intense! “Tribal Dance” brings back the symphonic touch with some violin, trombone, and female backup vocals. This definitely sounds like something Agressor may have attempted on Symposium of Rebirth. And much to my surprise and utter enjoyment, Loudblast guitarist/vocalist Stephane Buriez provides some background vocals! “At Night” closes the album and is the final instrumental. This time it’s acoustic guitar all by itself. I love acoustic guitar, so this is right up my alley! A nice ending to an overall chaotic assault on the eardrums!
From beginning to end this is an astonishing listen! At no point does the album ever get boring. It has variety, dynamics, and travels into new musical territory. And this is by far Agressor’s best-sounding album, being produced by Season of Mist and Alex. It also looks as though Agressor is now a two-piece, original member Alex along with bassist Joel Guigon, who’s played on the past couple albums. Drums on Medieval Rites were performed by both Martin Nielsen and Kai Hahto, the latter whom tends to be a bit more crazy and does an exceptional job with his jazzy cymbal work. And as if you couldn’t guess, several other guest musicians appear on the album due to the variety of instrumentation.
Along with Martyr’s Warp Zone, Agressor’s Medieval Rites is one of the best albums I have heard so far this year. Agressor fans should find this album pleasing (you better, or else I will tie you to a chair, duct tape headphones to your head, and play Billy Ocean and Don Henley albums over and over and over again). Death metal fans in general should find this album refreshing and interesting. I love it, and I hope you will too. Agressor deserves your ears. Your ears deserve Agressor!
The band has jumped from Black Mark Production to Season of Mist. Season of Mist has a web site, currently under construction, found at: http://www.season-of-mist.com/
Licensed to Thrash (split LP with Loudblast), New Wave, 1988
Neverending Destiny, Black Mark/Noise, 1990
Towards Beyond, Black Mark, 1992
Satan’s Sodomy (re-release of Licensed to Thrash tracks on CD), Black Mark, 1993
Symposium of Rebirth, Black Mark, 1994
Medieval Rites, Season of Mist, 1999