Underground metal aficionados may think they have Mancunian collective Agvirre all figured out. “Oh ho”, they say, “another EP from a post-black metal band with an unpronounceable name. I know exactly how this will sound”. Perhaps neckbeard is wryly stroked. Perhaps a sip of discount red wine is smugly taken. Agvirre are here to disabuse you of any such notions – indeed, they’re here to disabuse you of a great many things.
Opener ‘Radio Silence (Fill in the ___)’ rushes in with a wall of noise, injecting a sense of reeling unease with a mixture of the mechanical and the organic. Sampled speech phases, echoes and loops, a tumult building, punctured by random squeals as if an orchestra is slowly tuning. At times, in the throes of an unsettling sonic collage, it’s downright Kubrickian.
‘Muzzle and Mask’ kicks in with a rapid, lo-fi blackened gust, drums rattling and spasming with splashes of cymbals as shrieked, hoarse vocals bark out. Strings warble, nestled amid dense layers which drop in and out in turn. Drums begin to skip, meting out blast beats that the strings waltz around, unsettling choral vocals piercing the dense instrumentation. It’s high drama, bombastic, before suddenly dropping into tolling percussion, distant guitar tremolo mirroring the melody. Descending sharply into squealing madness, it then takes yet another dizzying left turn into pulsing synth and wandering guitars – refusing to settle or be easily pinned. Strings spider over the relentless through-line of blazing guitars, rising in triumph before slowly breaking apart, ending on a single emphatic chord.
Closer ‘Abandonment’ initially lilts with bright and beautiful guitar strums before adopting a more recognisable black-metal gait, shrieked, gasping vocals and grinding guitars at odds with the dappling of gorgeous strings. As with all things, the band quickly invert this – once beautiful strings quickly become the scrapes of rats trapped in the walls. Blooming into another blackened rush, the driving strums backed with an acoustic undertow, the bass and drums build on a firm rhythmic foundation. Dancing strings pierce the track with positivity, before it settles into shoegaze-laced chords. Alternating between bright, lilting uplift and breathless black metal, clean vocals and a sweet string flourish bring things to a close.
A true melting pot of influences, ideas and vision, combined with skill and a fearless disregard for convention, this EP is a powerful statement. Although some may find it too restless, a tad scattershot, for those of broader horizons it’s a bewildering and bewitching sonic gauntlet of rare delight. Silence speaks volumes.
Words: Jay Hampshire