ARGUS
"Argus"

(Shadow Kingdom)

01. Devils, Devils
02. Bending Time
03. From Darkness...Light
04. Eternity (Beyond, Part I)
05. None Shall Know the Hour
06. The Damnation of John Faustus
07. The Effigy Is Real
08. The Outsider

RATING: 8/10

It's that old thing called heavy metal. Remember it? Some bands stick to the tried and true of great riffs, guitar solos that you can feel in your gut, actual singing, and songs that stand the test of time. Some labels do as well, such as traditional metal and doom outfit Shadow Kingdom Records — you know the label that released that killer album "Overlords of Chaos" by Portuguese warriors IRONSWORD? As for all that talk of the "doom" end of heavy metal and what it really means, folks didn't get too worked up about the terminology when bands like PENTRAGRAM, TROUBLE, and yes, BLACK SABBATH, were darkening skies; it was just heavy music. It's a hand-in-hand sort of thing with acts like ARGUS. As such, the self-titled album from the quintet is another doom-laden, "old-school" heavy metal opus that ups the irons with power and pride.

If it makes you feel any better, you can call ARGUS one of those "cult" heavy metal bands. Folks like to describe SLOUGH FEG as such too and considering that both bands share an affinity for the likes of Di'Anno-era IRON MAIDEN and twin leads, then we'll equate "cult" to "great" for these purposes.

As for that doom element, one shouldn't be too surprised to hear it here, as Brian "Butch" Balich of PENANCE fame is the man with the microphone in ARGUS. He sports a rich mid-range that is as much a reason for the muscularity in these songs as the guitars and rhythm section are. Enter "None Shall Know the Hour" and "The Damnation of John Faustus", the doom elements therein reminding at times of CATHEDRAL stomp (the former) and a blend of TROUBLE and CANDLEMASS (the latter). The transition to meatier riffs and a quicker tempo on "The Damnation…" is pure BLACK SABBATH; the eight-minute track one of the album's most compositionally interesting, including the chilling organ intro. But then we've not gotten to 10-minute closer, "The Outsider" on which the band really lets the doom flag fly. I mean, these lyrics alone tell the story: "A life in solitude, this desolate keep my home / wandering corridors of damp and crumbling stone / outside the twisted trees in grotesque twilight groves / Blot out the sun whose light has never warmed my soul." Bright and shiny it ain't.

Let's not forget the equally powerful IRON MAIDEN/traditional heavy metal elements. The two opening tracks — "Devils, Devils" and "Bending Time" — are built of steel and iron and both feature the album's most memorable choruses ("From Darkness Light" is right up there too). And even on the aforementioned "None Shall Know the Hour" the guitar harmonies are a dead giveaway (and you'll be happier for it). The influence is even more evident in the bass playing of Andy Ramage whose style is song-centric, yet busy, and comes with a pronounced Steve Harris delivery.

In other words, the sounds of those classic bands are brought together with respect and reinterpreted with individuality. ARGUS packs a big 'ole wallop on this full-length debut. The riff will bring you in and the songwriting will make you stay.

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