House of Atreus
The Spear and the Ichor That Follows

“And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters
‘Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.’
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly;
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.”

-William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

Not content with adding traditional doom (Crypt Sermon) and black metal (Thantifaxath) to their roster of brilliant death metal, Dark Descent Records has dipped their toes into the genre of melodic death metal. But as you’d expect, it’s something a little different from the norm, not polished twiddly, Gothenburg NWSDM mind you, and as you’d expect it returns superb results.

Hailing from Minnesota and comprised of a bunch of dudes from bands even I have never heard of, House of Atreus (named after the ill fated house/family from Homer’s Iliad) have delivered a kickass debut record of earthy, grimy and Roman/Greek themed melodic death metal. And like I said, not the pristine commercial melodic death metal but a burly, gritty, loose style that many will rightly compare to Arghoslent, a bold decision by the band to be sure, to choose a sound akin to such a lightning rod of a band, but one that pays off. One could also throw Helcaraxe in there for a less attention getting comparison.

Also akin to Arghoslent, the lyrical themes are historical, but less controversial, dealing with Greek/Roman history, namely the tragedies, including some rousing quotes from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and a whole song concerning Oresteia, a famous Greek tragedy concerning the band’s namesake. And the themes are neither heavy handed or forced. Unlike bands like Ade or Ex Deo, other than the quotes there’s no ethnic instrumentation or synths or native musings. Just riffs, riffs and more riffs.

Thrashy, cantering riffs with an tumbling earthy tone, some deft solos and gravelly, gruff vocals make the album a simple, effective joy. The riffs are often imperial, martial and stern in tone, conveying the warring and tragic themes sans bells and whistles. Deftly delivering galloping uptempo numbers like opener “Trenches of Fortune”  and “Throne of Chariots” or slower brooding numbers like “Heir to the Crown of Sodom” “Oresteia – The Unforgotten Scorns” and “Veiled of Dignities of Wrath” the album is simple, effective and at time downright rousing as heard on personal favorites “Messenger of a Shaken Host” and “Beasts of Antiquity” which along with binge watching episodes of Spartacus on Netflix have me in a frothing bloodlust ready for gladiatorial combat. Or to do the dishes in just a subligaculum.

The only negative I can think of is that none of the killer tracks (“Bastards Upon the Hillside” or “Seed of Discord”) from the band’s excellent Into the Brazen Bull self releases EP/Demo are tacked on or redone for this album. Otherwise, Dark Descent once again has proven they can step a little outside their usual sound and release a top notch album in pretty well any genre they choose. And while the Arghoslent comparison will no doubt draw potential ire or unwanted attention (needlessly I might add), House of Atreus look to be a fast rising star in US death metal and another notch in Dark Descent’s belt.

“Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant”

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
May 4th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    Thantifaxath is traditional black metal?


  2. Commented by: mars

    Arghoslent never really leaves rotation for me. Considering the improbability of them ever releasing another record, I welcome another band of their…umm… breed.


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