Argesk – Realm of Eternal Night Review

When I’m unsettled, I retreat to what I know; to what I’m comfortable with. And while there’s a global pandemic locking down the planet, these are profoundly unsettling times. When the promo bin threw some atmospheric black metal my way, I was completely on board for that. This is the genre, after all, that got me into metal, and it’s where I feel most at home. No matter the time of day, or my mood, I can always spin some atmoblack. The icy embrace warms my cold heart and calms me. Which is all to say that Realm of Eternal Night, the debut album from British outfit Argesk, is precisely the kind of music I was looking for this week. The band operates in the well-trod woods of standard atmospheric black metal, combining blastbeats and tremolo picking with lo-fi production, synthesizers and tortured vocals. Those familiar with early Wolves in the Throne Room or Drudkh will feel right at home here. So far, so good. Is this the answer to your lockdown blues?

Firstly, that album cover is just fucking awesome, and really sets the stage for what’s about to come: a journey through a dark and ominous cavern with only the faintest of light to guide the way. When it works, like on the second track “Lord of the Boundless Void,” or penultimate song “Liberari in Tenebrae,” it’s solid stuff. A foreboding and menacing atmosphere is immediately created, with cool chords interwoven with soaring synthesizers. The harsh vocals juxtaposed with deft melodies highlights what many of us so enjoy about the genre: the ability to transport us away from our current troubles and pain. These tracks have the riffs and the spark to hearken back to the band’s illustrious predecessors.

Unfortunately, there are some issues here that prevents Realm from soaring. The first is the tone, best illustrated through Matt IH’s vocals. He roars, he yelps, he shrieks, he wails, and while none are weak per se, the changes can be jarring. It feels at times like he can’t quite decide what he’s aiming for, and some of the songs (like “Realm of Eternal Night”) share this disjointedness. Variety is fine, but switching vocal styles for no discernible reason can detract from the experience. It’s also a tough skill to master, and can sound a bit like a malfunctioning stick-shift when it goes awry. Nothing here is disastrous, but like a teenage boy, it’s awkward and uncoordinated. It makes you realize how talented guys like Ben Duerr, from Shadow of Intent, (who handles shifting vocals so organically and effortlessly) are.

While some of the songs have compelling melodies, Realm fails to develop many of these. This means that the tracks don’t really go anywhere interesting or unexpected. When the riffs and synths are strong, as in the above-mentioned “Lord” and “Liberari,” this issue can be quietly swept under the carpet. But tracks like “In Their Image” aren’t particularly exciting to begin with, and the lack of compelling development makes them even more dull. Considering the number of good ideas on Realm, this is frustrating because there was a base here for some interesting avenues to be explored.

Realm of Eternal Night feels very much like a debut album. It’s got some cool ideas, but they’re not really properly developed. It possesses some compelling tracks, but also its fair share of duds. The band is a bit all over the map, identity-wise, as evidenced by the constantly shifting vocals, but there’s definitely potential here. I’m inclined to stick with Argesk because while Realm is difficult to recommend, it’s clear that the band is more than capable of producing something worthwhile. This, unfortunately, just doesn’t quite hit the lockdown spot.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Clobber Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 17th, 2020

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