I can still remember the first time I heard Argus — in the burgeoning days of the early 2010s, the song was “The Damnation of John Faustus” from their self-titled album. I can’t say for certain, but it was probably on Foundry of Doom radio, since that’s what I spent most of my time listening to back then. And here, among epic tracks by the likes of Solstice, Atlantean Kodex, Solitude Aeturnus, etc., this song’s dark themes and powerful vocals really caught my ear.
This was still months, maybe even up to a year, before the genesis of my career as a writer, but I’ve always been inquisitive and wanted to research and learn more about everything I heard. In this instance, I was struck by how new the band was (their first demo dates back ten years, now, but at the time of this story the debut full-length was about a year or two old), but even more surprised to see that these guys were local (originating in Franklin, PA, just about an hour and a half north of Pittsburgh)!
I also discovered that the vocalist, Brian “Butch” Balich (formerly of Penance), is also a member of Molasses Barge, another local doom band that would greatly impress me when I saw them for the first time just months later. Eventually I’d manage to catch Argus live, as well, and they definitely managed to live up to the high expectations set by their incredible recorded output. I believe this was just before the 2013 release of their third album Beyond the Martyrs — one that immediately made its way onto my writing “to do list” but inexplicably has stayed there for these past years.
But now there’s a ferment of activity surrounding the band once more: they recently announced that their fourth album will be coming later this year — and I’ll be discussing both of those today, with an added bonus that was released a few months back by a side project involving Balich. And to top it all off, Argus will also be performing in Pittsburgh THIS FRIDAY (14 July) at an event that doubles as a preview of September’s Brewtal Beer Fest as well as featuring the world premiere of the new beer produced through a collaborative effort between the band and Big Rail Brewing! So after you’re done reading about the music, pop on down to the comments section for more information about that.
So — maybe you’ve noticed a running theme this week — but once again I’m sharing some music with you from a band that will be playing at The Maryland Doom Fest this weekend! That would be Apostle of Solitude, whose latest album Of Woe and Wounds has been hovering on my to-do list ever since it was released nearly three whole years ago. And while I’m at it, there’s another album I’d like to bring to your attention, last year’s offering by a band who are Indianapolis neighbors (and even overlap by one guitarist) with Apostle of Solitude, and whom we’ve spoken of highly in the past, Devil to Pay.
Good morning, readers, I hope you are doing well today. I just wanted to share this with you in case you haven’t already seen it, because That Devil Music, one of my favorite metal websites, has posted an interview with Argus, one of my favorite semi-local bands! (Semi-local, because they are just outside of Pittsburgh too, but in the opposite direction from me.)
Anyway, you can read the interview here — and see the band address such topics as the reaction to their second album (Boldly Stride the Doomed, out last year on Cruz del Sur Music); whether they consider themselves “doom metal” (spoiler alert: they can equivocate about genre as well as anybody); and what the future holds as far as upcoming shows (special mention is made of them playing the 31st Street Pub next month for the Dream Death reunion) and their forthcoming third album.
Pharaoh – Bury the Light (6 March 2012, Cruz del Sur Music)
Good evening, Readers. How’s it going? I’d like to take a quick poll, if you don’t mind. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “power metal”? Is your first impulse to run away screaming? It wouldn’t surprise me much if that were the case, because that would be the reaction of many people — including myself, sometimes.
Why is that? Well, because somewhere along the line power metal got its name blemished pretty badly in the eyes of most listeners. Somehow the genre got associated with bands who, when they heard “Run to the Hills” for the first time, fell in love with the lightning-speed galloping part towards the end, but thought the song would be better if they had cut out all the stuff that builds the tension up to that point, and creates dynamic contrast, and holds the listener’s attention. Bands whose favorite album of all time is Rising Force, but they never realized that their turntable was switched to 78 RPM instead of 33-1/3.
It’s no wonder most people turn their noses up at the thought of this genre, when its most visible representatives are a bunch of over-the-top, ultra-cheeserrific fuckwads whose primary goal seems to be to constantly outdo themselves in terms of speed and wankery, much more than giving any thought to making good quality music.
Of course, this stereotype didn’t just spring into existence overnight; there have been bands that have incorporated cheesy schtick into their repetoires (whether intentionally or not) for decades. It’s almost as if everyone had forgotten it was possible to put together a group of talented musicians and play music that strikes a balance between heavy and powerful but also emotional and melodic; and to tackle lyrical territory that is epic and grand but not corny and overblown. Almost.
A certain group of Philadelphian gentlemen (who, by the way, come from the eastern side of my home state – just a few hundred miles from here) who call themselves Pharaoh haven’t forgotten. And just one listen to their newest album (their fourth full-length, and fifth release overall, dating back nearly ten years) Bury the Light, which is on Cruz del Sur and was released just last week in North America, is all it will take to ensure you don’t forget, either.