With a name and album artwork as such, it is easy for one to mistake Ukraine's Agruss for an atmospheric black metal band that plays depressive and melancholic music in the veins of what French bands such as Alcest have crafted. However, the band goes on to prove that they are capable of playing music in that style and more on their brand new album, Morok.
The intro of album opener Damnation continues giving listeners that impression, with the sound of wind and water gushing at the background and that melodic, melancholic lead guitar at the foreground, but without warning a crushing chord is struck, and from here on out all hell breaks loose as the band goes into a galloping speed. As the twin vocal attack of Tvorek and Anton come in, the difference between them and your usual atmospheric black metal band becomes immediately obvious, with the alternating between tortured black metal shrieks and an almost brutal death metal-inspired deep, gruff growl, and the layering of these two vastly different vocal styles provide a nice full sound. On top of that, there is also the guitar playing style of Kadya and Pikach, often punctuating the bleak atmosphere with an element of doom and chaos through the grindcore/death metal styled chugging riffs. The inclusion of the wide variety of genres can be heard on Punishment for All, where the band goes from melodic death metal-inspired riffing patterns to a slight brutal death metal/grindcore segment before heading back to black metal territory again. These brutal death metal sections also allow for the members to show off their chops, such as on Ashes of the Future where bassist Mark litters the track with technical and complex segments.
And all these happen with an extremely heavy atmosphere that constantly shrouds the music, giving an extremely fresh sound with the recent surge of similar-sounding releases, with the perfect fusion and balance between a bleak atmosphere more prevalent in black metal with death metal playing styles by the individual members, setting them apart even from other atmospheric death metal bands. Other than the usual ambient sound-effects and sound samples that are used, the band also reinforces the atmosphere with their instruments, in particular when guitarists Kadya and Pikach utilise clean lead guitars and depressive melodies. Songs such as Morok are good examples of the musical style of the band, with a black metal intro that leads into a full on death metal track afterwards. The rough production quality also helps in making Morok all the more charming, allowing for the raw energy that is contained within the band to really shine.
The songwriting of the band is really tested on the closing 3-part epic, Under the Snow, with all three parts adding up to more than 28 minutes, making up almost half of the entire album and if there is one track that to find out Agruss' style of music, this is it, containing some of the most memorable moments of the album and are easily the best tracks out of Morok.
While the mixture of the two distinct genres together could really mess up one's mind at first, Agruss' ability to mix the bleak atmosphere and desolation of black metal together with the brutality and chaos of death metal certainly came across as interesting to say the least, and would definitely catch the attention of black and death metal fans alike, making Morok a masterpiece in every sense of the word.