For a while now, bands like Eyehategod, Alabama Thunderpussy, Down, etc. have reigned supreme over an inclusive American institution; Southern sludge/doom metal. New Orleans in particular was and still is famed for the depressive, muddy metal its natives put out, with some people coining the term NOLA doom in response. Considering just how strong Southern pride runs in some areas, I've wondered at times when Northern doom bands where going to craft a counterculture in response to the Southern section.
Enter New York City's Agnosis. Though they are not the creators of some vast, new, and visionary scene, they have crafted a very Yankee brand of sludge. In my opinion, the Southern sludge stylings of bands like Eyehategod, Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity, and Soilent Green (to name but a few) so easily invoke the South due to its frequent use of swampy distortion and even at times folksy boogie.
On their newest EP, Hecate, Agnosis unleash a torrent of molten-iron metal on our ears; hot, fiery, and caked in grime, this is more soul-crushing than just depressing. In fact, I'd wager Agnosis are the New England area counterpart to Eyehategod. At first glance, the two band's nihilistic mudhole stompers are one and the same, but at second glance, one finds that Agnosis are a lot faster, meaner, and bleaker. Maybe it's all the snow New York gets every winter, but something about Agnosis has them taking the best elements of Eyehategod (for example) and making them a lot more existentialist and cold.
Oozing urban decay, "Unholy Lord" is some very brilliant material. Shuffling like a hobo inflicted with a bad case of syphilis, "Unholy Lord" sounds like poverty turned to music. Sparse, hopeless, yet oddly intense and passionate, I'd go so far as to say this stuff is blacker than most black metal! Everything about it is perfect; the clanging clamor of drums, the barely coherent larynx scrapes of vocalist Austin Lunn, the dagger sweeps of sharp, pointed melody that stab through dirt-caked riffs. Fantastic stuff this is. The pounding "...And Yet We Fight to Win" is no slouch either. Manifesting itself with a long-winded passage of buzzing, epic sludge, the tune slowly explodes into a fireball of all-consuming and energetic rage. The song's muscular riffing is the perfect backdrop for a message of confrontation which breeds unity and belonging; such lyrics would fit in every bit as well on a Throwdown record as they do here. Toss in a moment or two of high-pitched guitar wankery and some surprisingly crisp crooning towards the end, and you've got another righteous slice of doom. The utterly brutal "The End-Times" is a route I'd like to see more bands take. Picture vintage Slayer cross-bred with thick, fuzzy doom and blasting crustcore. Don't believe me? Let's just say the opening riffs alone reek of a Season (or two) in the Abyss. This song features some of the most primitive doom riffs (very Sabbath like) on the entire EP, and a handfull of wicked, jangling bass scrapes from founding member Andrew Jude Riotto. The best part of this track is how the entire middle portion is one prolonged doom headbang, which eventually morphs back into a thrashing riff that vaguely reeks of Napalm Death, and with a wicked, blazing guitar solo attached!
It's been a while since I've seen a band who have tackled the (traditionally) hardcore/grind concepts of D.I.Y. and welded their spirit so effortlessly to doom metal. The result is this EP, and a half-hour of the most gutter-licking doom you're likely to hear this early in the year. Filthy, disgusting, and definitely built on blood, sweat and tears, Agnosis is kind of like a decent mosh pit; you'll never like how dirty you feel afterwards, but when you're in the thick of things nothing seems more real. Pick this one up as soon as you get a chance.
*The band wishes the Hecate EP to be judged as somewhat of a teaser for their next (and third) full-length release. Said record is planned on having a Fall 2006 release, and Spring 2006 sees the band finalizing a split, the details of which are still being ironed out and will be announced in full after press time for this review.*
1. Unholy Lord
2. ...And Yet We Fight to Win
3. The End-Times