Egregore is a black metal band. Every reader’s interpretation of what that means is likely to differ, one empty statement amounting to a Rorschach test for what people see in the state of metal right now. Black metal is lo-fi and raw or it’s polished and theatrical. It’s tangled up with shoegaze or goth or rock ‘n’ roll or psychedelia, and sometimes seems to jettison the imagery and antagonism that we tend to expect with extreme metal. Which might seem like I’m saying that “black metal” doesn’t actually mean anything, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Egregore is a black metal band in perhaps the most direct sense of the word—it’s visceral, intense, dark, harsh and played at relentless speeds. It’s tempting to say that they’re just a black metal band, but that in some sense sells the Vancouver duo short. The group’s heretical shrieks and galloping pummel carry a classicism that reaches back to both the second wave of the ’90s as well as the Golden Age of death metal, the muscle and menace of their sound tangled up in knotty riffs and a flair for the abrasive that’s reminiscent of early Morbid Angel at their best. But it’s in their intricate design of a harrowing sanctum that Egregore transcends that just—their flair for airtight songwriting and claustrophobic atmosphere creating a stunning roar of a debut on The Word of His Law.
In the 30 minutes that comprise the group’s first full-length—and as far as I can tell, first release of any kind—showcase a surprising amount of depth in only five proper songs (not counting the fine but unnecessary intro “The Place & The Time”). Where “Howling Premonition” showcases the group’s blasphemous bonafides via harsh riffs and terror-bent rhythmic sprint, “Reborn as the Word of His Law” leans more heavily into gut-rumbling death metal, interwoven with moments of shimmering guitar arpeggios and haunted ambience. It’s here where the band are at their strongest, offering a closer examination of the eerie flourishes that set them apart from more straightforward riffmongers. Their worship at the altars of madness is devout, but breathtaking all the same.
It’s only in the final track, “An Address to Abraxas,” where Egregore divert from the path of black metal altogether, unstomping boxes and delving into darkly psychedelic folk terrain. It’s gentle and beautiful but still swathed in the darkness that permeates their more aggressive tracks, a welcome surprise and one that comprises essentially one quarter of the album as a whole. Which might feel excessive were it not executed as well as it is, even if the three minutes of synth drone toward the end would have benefited from an edit. It’s clear that Egregore have so much more to offer than rote black metal riffs and bargain-bin Satanism, and their first helping is a deeply satisfying one, wasting precious few moments of these 30 minutes and leaving a strong impression in doing so.
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.