Agrypnie – Metamorphosis Review

Another day, another “avant garde” tag. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know how many times I’ve had to deal with this phrase. Its use alongside black metal is abused incessantly, ranging from the tastefully melodeath-inclined The Circle to the deathy ear-rape of Plasmodium.1 Truthfully, I’ve seen enough variations that I’m not entirely sure what it means, because its nature as “boundary pushing” is ultimately subjective: each person defines the boundaries and the pushing of them differently, making it ultimately meaningless. Does Agrypnie push boundaries or buttons?

Agrypnie is a German black metal band from Hesse, and no newcomer to the scene, having released five full-lengths, a split, an EP, and a compilation since 2005. Perhaps “avant garde” is a tag given to bands that are just difficult to pinpoint, as these guys employ a kitchen sink of influences and guest vocalists2 in their aural assault in sixth full-length Metamorphosis. Songs showcase their wide range: “Wir Ertrunkenen – Prolog” offers symphonic synth melodies to set the tone, only for “Wir Ertrunkenen” to topple that aesthetic with melodeath and blackened death sensibilities, while “Verwüstung” channels everything that you love/hate about Harakiri for the Sky and the title track embodies chaotic second-wave purity – truly, Metamorphosis is all over the place. Ultimately, while Agrypnie has its moments across sixty-nine minutes of content, it’s ultimately too scattershot in its assets, blaring in its overload of negative elements, and frankly too long for its highlights to make an impact.

When Agrypnie’s stars align in a fusion of melodic and crushing, it truly soars. “Wir Ertrunkenen” is the best example of this, balancing symphonic and post-black elements atop a plodding rhythmic template that recalls a blend of Harakiri for the Sky, Evangelion-era Behemoth, and Dark Tranquility. Gothenburg plucking makes appearances, synth provides the crystalline and nearly gothic atmosphere, and chuggy riffs supply the climaxes. “Melatonin” and “Untergang” provide similar payoff, relying on furious blastbeats, memorable riffs, emotional tremolo, and quieting post-rock passages of layered plucking. Patient dynamics executed through somber plucking to shredding tremolo sections in “Skulptur aus Eis” and “3327” offer moments of interest in otherwise frustratingly misfiring tracks. When the assets align in unison with a distinct purpose in mind, Agrypnie’s multi-pronged attack is truly unique: an amorphous atmosphere with fluid passages of brutality and gentleness alike.

For much of blackened arts, the use of “voice as an instrument” is fairly universal. For Agrypnie, however, it’s a jarringly out-of-place in this array. The approach to Metamorphosis attempts a balancing act of pristine atmosphere and bottom-heavy formidability, but the vocals largely feel a bumbling toddler to the instrumentals’ house of cards. Tracks like “Am Ende der Welt – Teil 1” and “Skulptur aus Eis” are absolutely derailed as a result, their frail melodic textures overthrown by overloud and vomity barks. While forgivable when the songs are solid, there are just too many tracks that feel sloppy and one-dimensional. In particular, “Verwüstung,” the title track, and the two part “Am Ender der Welt – Teil” offer passage after passage of pretty sounds, repetitive blastbeats, and limp riffs without distinct purpose or fluidity. A symptom of Metamorphosis’ frankly overly bloated length, the span of tracks 3 through 7 (thirty-five minutes) are almost unbearable for either its faulty songwriting or obnoxious vocals or both.

Post-black is a divisive enough topic around the office, but throw an overload of flavors from elsewhere into the punch bowl with reckless abandon, and it ain’t gonna be pretty. At its best a riffier fusion of Harakiri for the Sky and Deafheaven with some blackened death and melodeath to boot, Agrypnie does offer some truly sweet moments of professionally crafted melody, memorable riffs, and unique fusions of both. However, due to overdone vocals, frail songwriting, bloated length, or gooey combinations of all three, Metamorphosis largely misses the mark. Once again I’ve come to no particular conclusions about the meaning of “avant garde,” but “button pushing” might be too kind, given the overlong, and scattershot content within.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Art of Propaganda Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 30th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. To be clear, avant garde does not mean good, people.
  2. Travos of Thormesis on “Am Ende der Welt – Teil 2;” Nachtgarm of Negator on “Untergang;” and Steffen B. of The Cold Room on “3327.”
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