The history of Polish black metal is wrought with grand triumphs, mildly comedic home-made armor, and the occasional heinous controversy much like any other scene but there was never a set trend in sound or approach. Bands seemingly pulled from different blackened waves across the world for their inspiration. Among the most overlooked Polish black metal groups, Christ Agony were originals back in 1990 on their ‘Sacronocturn’ demo. Their doom and death metal inspired black metal could only have been comparable, structurally speaking, to the works of Samael and Varathron at any point, yet it occurred in tandem or previous. By the time Cezary Augustynowicz had fully conceived and practiced his vision on their ‘Epitaph of Christ’ demo in 1992 Christ Agony was wholly unique in it’s death/doomed (think ‘Lost Paradise’) black metal approach. Rough shod as the formative stages of Christ Agony‘s conception were, I felt they’d found a truly unique approach unattached to any other scene or trend at the time.
‘Unholyunion’ was the sort of thing I’d initially purchased for it’s artwork and for the band’s name. Early 90’s satanic black metal, upside-down cross, goaty painting, yeah I’m always down for that sort of thing. What I really hadn’t expected was it’s commitment to death/doom pacing and extended song lengths. Hearing the echoes of early Paradise Lost in “Darkthurnal (Eternal, Shouts)” within the context of slow-crawling black metal completely reset all preconceived ideas I’d had about this Polish group and black metal in general. I guess I’d been well primed for this sort of thing, though, as I had long been a fanatic of the first two Samael records as well as Varathron. I see ‘Unholyunion’ as a sort of tipping point where my interest in the history and variations of black metal became more serious in the early 00’s.
Christ Agony were never pure black metal with elements of old school death metal and doom metal informing their early recordings long before they began to dabble in melodic black metal and settle upon a modernized black/death/doom sound post-‘Darkside’. Even though I probably prefer Christ Agony‘s second and third albums slightly more in terms of production and actual guitar riffs, with ‘Daemoonseth: Act II’ at the top, I always recommend this album first. ‘Unholyunion’ is an amazing kick-off for trilogy of true progressive intent with the bar raised a great deal each release. Within the space of six years Christ Agony‘s power trio had released two demos and three full-lengths demonstrating true artistic progress with each successive release. In fact this is my favorite part of exploring underground metal when finding truly inspired bursts of music that remain largely cult to this day.
You really can’t just stop with the first Christ Agony album, but if you did only jam ‘Unholyunion’ you’d at least have heard one of the best arguments for the existence of black/doom within black metal’s second wave. Few, if any, black/death bands were playing with varied pacing and 14-15 minute songs in 1993 and this wasn’t the sort of thing you’d see much in black metal until decades later. It is a great companion to Varathron‘s ‘Her Majesty in the Swamp’ and Root‘s ‘The Temple in the Underworld’ as each record used first wave black metal and doom metal influences to great effect. Easily up there with my favorite black metal albums of all time, with the second album ‘Daemoonseth: Act II’ perhaps even better in some respects.
|Released||September 30, 1993|
|BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp!||Follow Christ Agony on Facebook|
Dancing ’round this emptiness. 4.5/5.0
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