Album Review: Redemptor – Agonia

Album Review: Redemptor - Agonia
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Now its time for a leap into the dark with a band, up until this moment, I had never heard of before. This is Redemptor, longtime Technical death metal act from Krakow, Poland, who have come to us with their fourth studio album. The band formed in 2001 so Agonia really sees the band celebrate their 20th anniversary together, and while they released some Demos in 2003, they wouldn’t in fact release a debut studio album until 2007: None Pointless Balance. Then comes a considerable lull in their output where aside from a Demo and an EP, the band wouldn’t release a follow up record until 2014 with The Jugglernaut. Since then however, the band have been on a much more consistent output of material that saw them release another album in 2017 and then again this year with the upcoming Agonia. I was interested to see what Redemptor would be made of, especially when I haven’t heard much Eastern European Technical Death metal at all really. So I went into this album blind and with zero expectations. Was it worth the time? Let’s find out.

The overall guitar tone here is one that seeks to strike you firmly in the face, and it’s no surprise that it does owing to how rounded and defined the riff’s shape assumes. It’s a guitar performance that you can’t help but pay attention to since there isn’t anything getting in the way of the riff’s cohesion nor are any of the other instrumental elements actively drowning them out, the riffs are clearly on display for us and therefore it gives the audience an easier job at following where they’re going and what atmosphere the band may be currently on show to give you. It’s nice to reflect however, that the band aren’t merely concerned with just fully shaped and rounded riffs here. The riffs can become more nuanced and quaint, doubling back on themselves as if sometimes assuming a far more shy and reserved quality all the while still oozing in this unknowing and sinister sensibility.

I really liked how the band may be dubbed as Technical Death Metal, but the way Redemptor approach their songwriting isn’t to hurl a ceaseless slew of notes in your face. Sometimes that’s effective but more often than not that can result in the audience losing where they are and where the ground is. The technical ability the band demonstrate here is a lot more interwoven in the songwriting itself and the small, minute intricacies they throw in throughout the album. If you’re looking for flashy technicality this isn’t it, Redemptor’s songwriting gives us technical death metal that could actually be mistaken for regular playing however by paying attention you’ll pick up on how the band shake things up continuously with injections of technical ability that heightens a respective track on the whole as opposed to something flashier and without as much substance. This is the kind of technical death metal I would choose to listen to, rather than something that tries to mask a lack of songwriting calibre with narcissistic individual ability.

Album Review: Redemptor - Agonia

I must say that even though the band do play death metal at the speed you would expect such a band to be playing at, Redemptor do a great job at making it easy and approachable to follow the flow of songwriting they can give you. This is all the while blast beats, guitar neck sweeps, growling vocals etc are all pummelling you, despite all this going on simultaneously the band have an extremely firm grasp on where they want to go with their songwriting. They don’t just allow their music to escape them, it’s just as much under their control while playing as it is in your control to listen to them. There are a few old school death metal elements going on here which I think helps out in this respect, riffs can at times feel somewhat extended even just be a few seconds which not only creates that more crushing impact but negates any idea that the band are simply racing from A to B. They’re playing fast but speed isn’t the goal here, rather their aim is to really allow you to stew and settle amongst the devastation they have come here to wrought and it’s through that annihilation that the juicy and satisfying angle the riffs possess, are drawn out the most.

The variety of soundscapes and songwriting techniques the band implement here from one track to another is what I’ll take away the most out of Agonia. That much I’m very confident about. The vocals are excellent in this respect where within one track they are the growling and boisterous performance you’ll hear towards the beginning, or what you’d expect, before being changed up and far more nuanced and level-headed alongside likewise riffs that have also brought themselves down to a grounded perspective. The riffs here can have that more typical technical edge that makes them easy to identify but then other songs will possess songwriting that renders them much more blended in and tougher to discern outright. You’ve even got a track like “Further From Ordeal” where alongside string sections, a very grounded and baritone vocal performance and furious neck sweeps, it wouldn’t go amiss within a Fleshgod Apocalypse album. That’s something I wasn’t expecting, and it made me so happy to know that Redemptor are not satisfied with doing what they’re expected to deliver, there is far more they’re willing to do than many of their contemporaries may be prepared to do. It makes for an album that can be nearing its end but you’re still on edge for what else they may throw at you because they’ve conditioned you to expect anything.

In conclusion, I came away from this album particularly impressed. I didn’t know who this band was, I’d never heard of the album, but I came away knowing full well that when they release their next EP or studio album I will be there guaranteed to be fully anticipating it. This is cleverly written and interwoven technical death metal whereby the band aren’t relying on excessive technical arrogance that’s constantly in your face in order to garner and maintain your attention. I utterly loved the variety and scope the songwriting was able to utilise for us here as each track really does have something to offer as we keep moving through the record. From an acoustic instrumental piece to that aforementioned symphonic-led track to much more crushing and obliterating works, Redemptor are a Polish figurehead for technical death metal in that region of the world for sure. But most of all I appreciated how grounded and rooted the band were throughout their performance, they were able to perfectly balance the need for coherent songwriting and track structure with a technical edge that was just right for fans to latch onto without it feeling like we were having our senses unnecessarily blinded by needless quantities of technical injection. This is an excellent release that’s fully worth your time and I know for sure I’ll be blasting this out a few times upon its upcoming release.

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