Monday, 16 February 2015

Agatha - Gravis Atque Gravior (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 30/05/2014
Label: Wallace Records, Il Verso del Cinghiale, 
Sangue Dischi, Cheap Satanism, Panda Panda, 
Overdrive Records, Cheap Satanism, 
No Work Record, Chaos Rural Records

‘Gravis Atque Gravior’ CD//DD//CS//LP track listing:

1. 1981
2. Right is not Right
3. Black Owl
4. A Song for the Different
5. Planets Conspiracy
6. Not About Who Rules
7. Keep Breathing Please

Agatha is
Claudia | drums
Pamela | bass/vocals


Agatha is an Italian sludge/doom duo, led by Claudia (drummer) and Pamela (bass + vocals). Though originally a three-piece, the band now operates as a bass and drum duo in live settings. Whether their new material will still have guitar tracks on the record remains to be seen. A cursory listen to ‘Gravis Atque Gravior’ reveals a strong appreciation of the Savannah, GA heavy music scene, with more than a few Kylesa and Baroness moments throughout the album. This album is the group's first output on Canadian label Chaos Rural Records. 

Opener "1981" lumbers forward with a rather straightforward stomp, only to erupt in a frenzy of tribal drum beats and a more driving finish to the track. This is a solid opener because it is brief and powerful, but also lets the listener know what's in store for the rest of the album. One would be forgiven for thinking that the riffs on this track all sound fairly similar. Whether that is in the album's favor or not is entirely up to the listener, but it is an observation worth noting as this pattern continues throughout the rest of the album. "Right is not Right’ opens with a very Kylesa feel with hi-hat-and-bass-drum beats accentuating the introductory riff. 

However, it's "A Song for the Different" wherein the band finally finds themselves. The more pronounced bass guitar and tom-heavy drumming gives a glimpse into what Agatha might sound like live in the current duo format. Pamela's half-shouted-half-sung vocals recall early Kylesa and even a bit of Black Tusk (RIP Athon) as she attempts to navigate the boundaries between full-on screaming and the shouted vocals that are more common in Southern-style sludge and doom (see: Rwake, Eyehategod, Black Tusk, early Baroness). This track features some more melodic interplay between the instruments and more dynamic songwriting than the first two tracks. When the bass break comes in around 3 minutes, I dare you to not bang your head. This is just the right amount of heavy and catchy.

"Planets Conspiracy" continues in the vein of the previous song, and at this point it becomes clear that the last half of the album is stronger and more varied than the opening tracks might have led you to believe. The layered vocal attack that begins at 2:37 introduces a new level of heaviness that had only been alluded to in earlier songs. At this point I found myself wishing one of these songs had opened the record; "1981" is a strong opener but is far from the standout of the record, and by the time the drone-y uptempo clamor of "Keep Breathing Please" fades out, Agatha has taken you to a number of different places in a relatively short amount of time.

This album will grow on you. That is not to say it isn't an excellent record, but rather that it is at times unfocused and sometimes falls into the trap of sounding repetitive as have some of the Savannah-area bands who have influenced Agatha (Zoroaster, for one). Agatha wear their influences on their sleeves, and the moments when they push through to something new are frequent enough that I know they are capable of something truly striking. 

Words by: Ben Hutcherson

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