We’ve all been there. You find a new band and everything seems great. Their riffs are sick, their songwriting is tight, and they have an ample discography for you to explore. But then, something starts smelling foul. They have a record called Incorrigible Bigotry. They have a song called “Hereditary Taint.” They have a lyric that talks about a foreign warrior being “unable to grasp the shortcomings of his brood.” Suddenly, it dawns on you: your new favorite band is fucking racist.
What’s a metal fan to do? Some people will tell you to find a similar group with a less contemptible ideology, and that’s exactly where House of Atreus enter the picture. The Minnesota quartet is the spitting image of Arghoslent, the racist Virginia death metal band whose galloping and melodic riffing style is one of the most unique in the genre. House reject Arghoslent‘s supremacist lyrics in favor of songs about Greek tragedy and ancient war, but there’s one problem: their music isn’t nearly as good. 2015 debut The Spear and the Ichor That Follows was a fun but forgettable romp that paled in comparison to its obvious influence, and sophomore album From the Madness of Ixion largely continues this campaign of mediocrity.
That’s not to say House don’t give it their best effort. Right from opener “The Madness of Ixion,” it’s clear the band offer plenty of pugnacious energy and have studied the music of Arghoslent with seemingly academic fervor. The riffs are galloping and tinged with the spirit of classic heavy metal, the drums charge forward on blast beats and barreling rhythms, and the vocals consist of garbled rasps delivered with a commanding inflection. “Ixion” even slows to a conclusion of big grandiose chords, which is a songwriting trick Arghoslent often employ. Likewise, House throw in an extended instrumental track in the album’s second half, which is something their favorite Virginians have also done on every one of their full-lengths.
The problem here is the same as it was on the debut: House’s riffs are simply nowhere near as good as Arghoslent’s. There are a few decent moments, sure—the rapid descending notes of “Oath of the Horatii” make for some exciting verses, while “Cordelia” features a twirling riff that feels like a war horse charging into battle—but these moments are like small islands of quality amidst a sea of mediocrity. For the most part, these eight songs plow ahead on riffs that sound like something Arghoslent would make up during sound check. The energy and feeling are the same, but they’re nowhere near as interesting or memorable.
The issues don’t end there. The raspy vocals are crammed into seemingly every measure and occasionally feel obnoxious as a result, while the guitar solos aren’t notable at all and seem included just for the sake of having guitar solos. Rhythmically House are stuck in “charge into battle” mode and rarely slow the tempo, making these 46 minutes feel monotonous and overlong. Individual songs sometimes overstay their welcome as well, particularly the near-eight-minute “Call to Thee, Concubines” and the dull seven-minute instrumental “Ad Hominem.” Other songs like “Zealous Inequity” are shorter but are bereft of interesting ideas. On the plus side, at least everything sounds good, with a production that offers a huge dynamic range and a suitably burly guitar tone.
I once saw a grindcore band who, unhappy with the venue’s sound, told the audience that “up here it sounds like having sex with ten condoms on.” Stylistically, that’s exactly what listening to House of Atreus is like. They emulate Arghoslent to an impressive degree, but their music is nowhere near as engaging. In the future, they’d do well to capitalize on the sound of closer “Bonded Behind Supremacy,” which actually features decent riffs and the album’s only memorable chorus. For now, the uninspired songwriting and lack of notable ideas make Ixion feel even less enjoyable than the debut, even if they’re stylistically identical. I commend House for having an obvious sense of enthusiasm (not to mention an ideology that isn’t utterly despicable), but ultimately their music just isn’t good enough to warrant a positive endorsement.