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(42:45; Agonia Records)
I have been working with Agonia Records for many years, but it was somewhat of a shock when I played the fourth album by Greek band Hail Spirit Noir as it is nothing like anything else I have come across from Agonia. The band started as a trio band in 2010, but in 2018 they decided to also make their live musicians to be full members of the band so they have now extended into a sextet with Haris (synths), Theoharis (guitars, vocals), J. Demian (bass, acoustic guitars), Sakis Bandis (synths), Cons Marg (vocals) and Foivos Chatzis (drums). It is unusual to find a band with two keyboard players, let alone one which has appeared at festivals such as Roadburn, Inferno and Dark Bombastic Evening. The band has been known for producing music which crosses many boundaries yet is based firmly in psychedelic, progressive black metal, which in itself is an unusual mix. Here they have dropped some of the black metal musical influences (although of course the band photographs are all in black and white) and appear to have shifted their point of reference about 10 years further forward and have brought in some Eighties keyboards sounds. It is a very mellow album, with the focus primarily on the vocals and keyboards, and when they do crunch or bring in some black metal-style screams such as on “Alien Lip Reading” it provides tremendous contrast. They maintain their street cred by being produced and mixed by Dimitris Douvras (Rotting Christ), mastered by Alan Douches (Nile, Aborted, Whitechapel), while guest vocals on "Crossroads" was provided by Lars Nedland of Borknagar. But this is a band who are now way more polished and moving the metal genre into areas one would not normally imagine. It is one heck of a crossover album, with modern production pulling the music in one direction while the dated keyboards take it in another, riffing guitars, wonderful vocals, and some incredibly strong performances from all involved. The band says they feel the songs are retro-futuristic and surreal, as well as being more prog, psychedelic and challenging than ever, yet to my ears there is little challenging about this as it is a commercial easy to listen to album which is going to gain them a whole host of new fans.
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