"Boldly Stride The Doomed"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Right now the doom scene seems over-run with angry sludge metal, meandering post-rock and weirdo doom drone. That's why it's kind of a relief to hear an album like "Boldly Stride The Doomed" by Argus, which pays homage to classic metal and traditional doom.

This Pennsylvania band will remind you of diverse acts like Solitude Aeturnus, Omen, very early Savatage and of course Candlemass as they play their ponderous metal anthems. The sound is dark and gloomy, but it never really drops to a funeral pace. Some of the quicker songs will remind you of Omen and even Iron Maiden with their galloping tempo and frequent use of twin guitar harmonies. The vocals are from Butch Balich, who once had a gig singing for the doom legends Penance...he has a strident, fluid voice that won't knock you flat the way some guys do but which perfectly carries the story-telling lyrics.

After a brief but haunting intro, " A Curse on the World" unleashes a twin guitar torrent that soon gives way to a very cool Candlemass-type driving riff. Follow-up "Wolves of Dusk" ups the aggression quotient but seems a bit overlong and a little unfocused to me. "The Ladder" whips things back into shape with a track that could have definitely appeared on an early Solitude Aeturnus album. Balich's vocals are at their emotional best here. "Durendal" has a very medieval, military sound to its pounding riffs, which is appropriate considering the lyrics and it's also the heaviest tune so far. The very melancholy "42-7-29" is greatly boosted by the doleful sounds of a piano which perfectly accentuate the sad and lumbering music.

The title track is very up-tempo and surprisingly brief...very much a "battle" tune in the vein of classic Omen. "Fading Silver Light" is more crunching, medieval-sounding metal...rather typical but still enjoyable. That leaves the album to end with its real monster doom tune, "Pieces of Your Smile", which is the traditional doom lover's delight. It's a real funeral dirge and maybe too much for those who like the more sprightly tunes...sadness clings to this track like a mist. The record ends with another acoustic instrumental, bringing to a close about 55 minutes of pure traditional metal.

I couldn't say "Boldly Stride The Doomed" is perfect, as Argus is still not quite on the level of the bands they admire, but if you are into the elusive sounds of "true" metal, you shouldn't be disappointed by this release. And it's American, no less!