AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö: Conspiracy of Zero – Ahthos Arouris

“AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö” is a time-honored tradition to showcase the most underground of the underground—the unsigned and unpromoted. This collective review treatment continues to exist to unite our writers in boot or bolster of the bands who remind us that, for better or worse, the metal underground exists as an important part of the global metal scene. The Rodeö rides on.

Here we are again in this year of 2023 where we of Melvin AMG do our very best to capture not only the things in our overflowing sump, not only the things that catch our eyes for filter pieces, but also the things caught in the tag-littered hell of the emerging. If you caught any of our pieces from last year, you may have witness travesties such as the bombing of the small island of Sardinia or the infamous Serbian boot party. However, you may have too fell in love too with the 2022 champion, the woefully kvlt and highly anonymous Autonoesis. That’s why we soldier on.

In turn we invite you today for a trip to the port city of Thessaloniki, a region of modern day Greece that has seen civilization flourish, fall, and fester over the course of approximately 2400 years now. Surely, countless musical endeavors have graced the ears of many who have seen the Mediterranean from this beautiful angle, but this edition of Rodeö exists for Conspiracy of Zero. You may not be able to parse from their garish tattoo-art aesthetic1 that this unknown five-piece plays not a single note of fuzzed out stoner rock, but instead regales us with a regionally influenced, highly melodic form of progressive death metal. Or is it a progressively-inclined, folky melodeath outing? Their Facebook page seems to agree more with the former. Whatever the case, we’re here to hash out the finer details of this sophomore outing Ahthos Arouris. Opa! – Dolphin Whisperer

Conspiracy of Zero // Ahthos Arouris [February 3rd, 2023]

Sentynel: This has been a particularly difficult writeup, even after begging an extension. Whenever I listen to Athos Arouris, I really enjoy it. It presses all of my melodeath buttons, emphasis on the “melodic.” The melodies are intricate and pretty but don’t sacrifice heaviness in the process; it’s pacy and driven, but knows when to slow down. The writing is smart and mature. There’s a bunch of moments where I go “ooh, this is great,” like the whole opening track, or the riff and transition to acoustic guitar around the 6-minute mark in “Ahthos Arouris II,” or even the piano opening to “I Feel.” “We Both Bleed” even pulls off a recognizable homage to Cynic without simply lifting their riffs or style, always a challenging line to walk. Conspiracy of Zero are clearly an immensely talented lot, and I didn’t expect something of this quality in a Rodeö at all. I want to love it. If I were to level tangible criticisms, I would say that the vocals are workmanlike but not very exciting, and the production is a little limp and lifeless. Neither should be fatal. And yet my real issue with this record is intangible: it just doesn’t quite get its hooks into me. I should be humming the songs to myself after the record ends and excited to listen to it again. But I’m not. I kept thinking I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. But after a week of extra time and a bunch more spins, I still feel the same. Am I the problem? Well, probably, but this is my writeup. 3.0/5.0

GardensTale: I expect Rodeö albums to generally fall in the 1.5 to 3.0 range. I always try to participate, because I’m a sucker for group activities, but I don’t do it because I expect to get an absolute whopper of an album. Well, Conspiracy of Zero just grinned like a snake-handling titan torso on fire and kicked me in the sternum, because fuck me this album is good! The guitar tone immediately transported me back to the Children of Bodom era of melodic death metal, but this is no mere throwback album. The riffs are simultaneously technical and groovy, walking through the scales with razor-sharp precision, and the solos are absolutely top-notch. They’re diverse and intelligent, and use phrases of riff to pull the song together without sacrificing surprise. The drums are dynamic without feeling showy, but closer inspection reveals incredible technical skill that lifts every track to a higher level. When they do get to show off, like the second half of closer “I Feel,” it is an avalanche of awesome. The vocals are good, but probably the least noteworthy performance on the album, and MENA folk interlude “Ahthos Arouris I” doesn’t do enough with its time, but those are pretty minor quibbles, especially in the face of some truly stellar songwriting that makes even the 11 minute closer fly by. I never thought it’d happen in a Rodeo, but I’d happily have this album in my end-of-year list. 4.0/5.0

Twelve: Sometimes, I think the world has exactly as much progressive death metal as it needs—but this is a silly thought. It’s far from my favorite style of music, but, done well, it brings life and color to death metal, a style of music that typically lacks life and color. Conspiracy of Zero, on their sophomore full-length Ahthos Arouris, do progressive death metal well. This album is lively, varied, and packs a real punch. Over the course of 46 minutes, the band heavily explores the “progressive” aspect of the style. Ahthos Arouris offers a lot, from adventurous romps like “Divine Creatures,” led by galloping riffs and leads and huge drumming, to more serious, mid-paced numbers like “Unknown Protester,” a dark, gritty ode to the oppressed. Throughout it all, heavy growls and grinding riffs keep the whole heavy, angry, and powerful. It’s even paced well—song lengths, paces, and styles vary enough that I never really get tired of listening, and the instrumental “Ahthos Arouris I” is perfectly placed to give the listener a break from the super-heavy-metal tracks. Although I can’t say I love the base “death metal” foundation for the music—a personal bias that takes nothing away from how well the songs are written—it appeals to the parts of me that like power metal, progressive metal, and heavy metal. Conspiracy of Zero have managed to create a fun album in a style that doesn’t really lend itself to that adjective, and I have enjoyed it plenty. 3.0/5.0

Dolphin Whisperer: It took all of 10 seconds for me to decide that we need to wrangle Ahthos Arouris. Tonally, Conspiracy of Zero doesn’t hit like progressive death metal in the vein of Opeth nor melodic death metal in the vein of Gothenburg acts like Dark Tranquility, though some of the compositional tactics remain from both. Rather, the wildly harmonic intro to “Divine Creatures” took me right back to the warm melodicism of Quo Vadisߵ swan song Defiant Imagination, riding stacked, blazing leads against gruff barks and rhythms full of bombast. Ahthos Arouris may not have the magical touch of bass virtuoso Steve DiGiorgio, but Conspiracy of Zero hosts George fuckin’ Baltas (Dimorfia), the Greek powerhouse drummer I didn’t know I needed to hear. Whether he’s stealing the show with heroic yet tasteful fills (“We Both Bleed”), dancing around beautiful folk melodies (“Ahthos Arouris I”), or simply pairing a textured urgency against meaty riffs (“Unknown Protester”), Baltas maintains a presence that’s impossible to ignore. And, largely, the rest of the band follows suit with extended numbers like “Ahthos Arouris II” and “I Feel” boasting technical but motif-led guitarwork that continues to chisel into my memory. It’s not all perfect, of course, but Ahthos Arouris lands as the kind of album that grows with its flaws—guitarist Paris Stamatiadis provides many of the clean vocal lines here, and, despite his limited range makes it work. The album too has a bit of a weird flow on the back half, with the titular suite leading into a shorter, punchier number that doesn’t really need to be there. So, while Conspiracy of Zero doesn’t entirely sweep me off my feet, Ahthos Arouris hasn’t left my rotation yet, and probably won’t until the next ride comes around. Get on it! 3.5/5.0

Show 1 footnote

  1. Check their debut’s album art for an even more glaring example.Dolph
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