Varathron – “Patriarchs Of Evil” (Agonia Records)
Along with Rotting Christ and Necromantia, Varathron form the cornerstone of Greek black metal which was no easy feat considering the country’s deeply religious convictions as well as a national policy of compulsory military service! Formed back in 1988, I won’t even consider to imagine the number of people that have played in any of these bands, who frequently traded members between themselves to cover the shortfalls in personnel, but with the sheer amount of experience gained as a result of this, there are some truly stellar Greek musicians out there. True to this is the current line of Varathron, still featuring founder vocalist Stefan Necroabyssious, and joining him since 2004, Achilleas C (Aenaon, ex-Chaotic Symmetry) on guitars and Haris (No Hand Path, Utmost Contempt, ex-Revolting Breed, ex-Morpheus) on drums, with the more recent members being Sotiris (No Hand Path, ex-Rovolting Breed) also on guitars and Stratos Kountouras (Luna Obscura, One of Discord, ex-Vert) on bass! Together, they have been releasing albums steadily over the years with “Patriarchs Of Evil” being the band’s 6th release (not counting their huge number of EPs, split and compilations!). Anyone new to Greek black metal will find that while common aspects of devilry certainly pervade the music including the use of blast beats, the Greek style draws from its own deep mythology along with a rich use of epic and dark melodies, all of which add up to hugely atmospheric releases. “Patriarchs Of Evil” is such an album, rooted in the 90s and devoid of compromise or desire at selling out to modernity, which is just what I want to hear given Varathron’s rich legacy! The 8 tracks here are masterful compositions reflective of the thoughtful attention to detail in invoking such atmosphere, and the talented performances which also incorporate keyboards, pagan folk and heavy metal allow the band to achieve this on this impressive release. Necroabyssious in particular puts on a stellar performance with plenty of creepy passion and haunting emotion in his vocals, backed by the very skilful guitars that exude occult mysticism along with strong epic power like on the 8 minute ‘Ouroboros Dweller (The Dweller of Barathrum)’, completed by heaps of ghostly vocal harmonies. Elsewhere on ‘Luciferian Mystical Awakening’ there’s plenty of dark, pagan passion with the guitars delivering some catchy folk melodies as Necroabyssious’s dry drawls complements the charged atmosphere magnificently, be it in dark ambience or as the fiery furore sets the song ablaze! Blending mid paced blast beating, rich melodies clang and resonate before more pagan epic power comes in on ‘ Saturnian Sect’ as the twin guitars riff away while Necroabyssious sits atop his throne of blood, chanting and offering spoken word as the high priest of his band, urging the listener to follow on his dark quest – and after such a stellar performance, how could you refuse. I mean, “Patriarchs Of Evil” is testimony that one of Greece’s titans is still very much alive and wild!