Aegrus – In Manus Satanas Review

Aegrus - In Manus Satanas 01“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Douglas Adams

The AMG taskmasters are an unforgiving lot. Missed deadlines result in extra latrine duty, or occasionally banishment to the Skull Pit.1 But sometimes, missed deadlines (and the grumpy glare of the frequently-disappointed ape who doubles as my editor) are worth it because not all albums can be fully digested in a week. Or even a month. Some take their sweet time to fully reveal their secrets, and patience is key. Aegrus’s latest effort, In Manus Satanas, is a great example of this. On a cursory glance, these Fins, who established themselves in 2004, provide an uncomplicated and unpretentious take on occult black metal. In Manus Satanas is the band’s third album, following 2017’s Thy Numinous Darkness. They’ve expanded the line up to include a new drummer and an extra guitarist, and the music reflects a more ambitious desire. As a result, this one required more time to digest. But was it time well spent?

Both the album art and the title are clues to the fact that these guys aren’t exactly fans of Christianity, and the music follows suit. Those looking for cute variations, modern metal hybrids, or gentler atmospheric takes, will be sent fleeing for the hills. This is black metal that’s aggressive, forceful and uncompromising. Much like police in a particularly rowdy mosh pit, flutes and saxophones are not welcome here. What sets In Manus Satanas apart from so many contemporaries is not the fury, however, but the underlying sense of melody and cohesion. The usual black metal formula isn’t modified so much as gently tweaked, but it’s done in an elegant and interesting way which elevates the material to something notable.

The songs themselves are ostensibly typical black metal fare, with all the blast-beats, howls and tremolo-picking a fan could want. But open the hood and beneath all the fury, there’s both a solid sense of melody, and a mature feel for song progression. These elevate the material well above the average. “Nemesis,” for example, slips at least three really catchy riffs into its seven-minute run-time, all of which are more compelling than the last. And this is where the maturity of being around for fifteen-odd years comes in: Aegrus is experienced enough to know when to stand back and allow the melodies to shine, rather than drowning them in feedback or furious drums. This combination of experience and melodic savvy results in other great tracks like “Gestalt of Perdition,” which slams together anger and catchiness without compromising either. It’s a delicate dance, and Aegrus nails it.

Aegrus - In Manus Satanas 02

There are a couple of issues with In Manus Satanas, however. The first is the sense of similarity that pervades throughout. Although the songs themselves contain plenty of melody, the majority are played at a similar pace and tempo, which gives the album a monotonous feel. “Ascending Shadows” is a notable exception, and it adds much-needed variety to the second half of In Manus Satanas. The aforementioned “Nemesis” feels even more ferocious because it follows the groundwork laid by “Ascending Shadows.” The rest of the album could have benefited from the dynamism that different tempos bring. The second problem is a honey-dense production which is unnecessarily loud, emphasizes the thundering drums to a ridiculous degree, and adds to the feeling of fatigue.

The first draft of this review had In Manus Satanas pegged as an enjoyable but disposable, meat-and-‘taters occult black metal collection, hampered by questionable production. The more I listened to it, though, the more I began to appreciate the small differences that separate it from its contemporaries; differences that can be missed on the first few spins. The band doesn’t have clever recording trickery or unnecessary “crossover” experiments and instruments to hide behind. The songs live or die by the incontrovertible riff, and Aegrus is brimming with them. More than this, though, the maturity in the songwriting results in a whole that transcends the band’s occult roots. It’s impressive and enjoyable but requires patience from the listener because it can all seem monotonous at first. In Manus Satanas won’t meet you halfway. You may have to miss a deadline or two to really appreciate it.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Saturnal Records
Website: facebook.com/aegrusofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 11th, 2019

 

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  1. You’re also late to the Skull Pit. Get your shit together. – A Very Angry Grier
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