Cruz Del Sur is doing some fine fine work lately. I heartily enjoyed the new release by Twisted Tower Dire and now they serve up the second album by PA’s metallers Argus. After a generally well-received (but widely overlooked) debut in 2009, they’re back to demand attention with Boldly Stride the Doomed (bad ass title). Led by vocalist Brian Balich (Penance), Argus could be described as a semi-doom, epic metal band (if that makes any goddamn sense). Whatever label one ultimately sticks on them, they serve up some high class metal with a lot of balls, testosterone and moxy. Sometimes pure doom, sometimes epic metal, sometimes good old traditional metal, they shift and slither their style but the one constant is quality and that’s the winning ingredient every time.
After a somber acoustic intro, the gloves come off for “A Curse on the World,” which starts out with a great Maiden-esque riff pattern before settling into a heavy, chunky groove riff with interesting accents. Balich’s mid-range delivery is intense, commanding and tough. He has a simple singing style but great tone and he gives the music a hard edged sound not dissimilar from Tim Aymar from Pharaoh. This is one of their songs I would dub “semi-doom.” It has that doom ethos but it’s plenty energetic and a little too spry to be called doom in a conventional sense. Very engaging stuff. “Wolves of Dusk” ups the ante with a more urgent, aggressive pace and even harder vibe. A fair comparison would be the recent output by the excellent Grand Magus. Both traffic in a doom tinged traditional metal style and both do it very well. Great riffing (great moody guitar work at 3:40), powerful vox, and some impressive bass work by Andy Rampage (especially at 4:13). For me, the most impressive moment on Boldly Stride the Doomed comes with the epic metal anthem “Durendal” which has a lot in common with battle metal lords Doomsword. This is a big song about huge battles and it’s all business, super serious and great. When Balich chants “I will never go back, never retreat, rather that I meet death,” it sounds pretty damn convincing and powerful. Also at the top of the quality spectrum is “42-7-29″ which is raw, painful doom complete with bleak emotions and majorly depressing lyrics and the title track with it’s urgent, crunch and Pharaoh-like guitar work.
What becomes apparent as the albums rolls along is the diversity and variety in the material. Argus isn’t content to settle into one specific genre so they explores the edges of several. Whether dabbling in doom, epic or straight up metal, they manage to impart their own sound and make it work exceedingly well. Of the eight actual tracks, all are winners. Even the very long “Pieces of Your Smile” is compelling and really grows on you although it tends to drag a little here and there. Throughout Boldly Stride the Doomed, Argus functions as a jack of all trades and ace of all and I’m suitably impressed. This is superior to their debut in every way and that’s saying something. The guitar tandem of Jason Mucio and Erik Johnson deserve a lot of the praise for their high class riffing and leads. This is a guitar player’s album and loaded with interesting and well constructed riff patterns. Add in some rock solid vocals and a great rhythm section and you have a nice little package indeed.
Argus‘s debut was criminally ignored by many so I sincerely hope this album gets them far more attention. They deserve it and this material demands it. Quality and variety should be rewarded so boldly buy this album. Support good metal you fickle freaks!