Too often the discerning and undeserved enthroned separate the goats from the sheep out of necessity, to pluck the intrepid from their followership and maintain control absolute. What then does the horde use to discern who and when to cull when they are all goat? Blood, sacrifice, or dispassion aside the more endearing among us have but one admittedly subjective methodology that needs little agreement to reach quick judgement: The riff. How then does war metal survive in the minds of the defiant when so few bleed their skull of its inventions by way of riff and structure? This is the only path I know for culling the follower from the true dissident and ultimately what lands me squarely in the stigmata hole that is Athens, Greece deathly war metal band αίμα [Aima, ‘blood’]. Standard as some of their material may be on this debut full-length at times, an insightful grasp of first wave black metal and primordial death metal elevates their craft beyond norms on ‘τράγος’ [‘Trágos, ‘goat’].
As with all black/death that’d lean well into the realm of war metal I fear any quick decision upon any new release’s contents because this style of music can be incredible shallow and difficult to return to. This is not the case with ‘Tragos’, a debut marked by plenty of memorable death metal influenced guitar work that helps to solidify the experience into movements and meaningful actions as Aima conjures their brethren in Embrace of Thorns in a very appropriate resemblance of that band around the time of the bands ‘Praying For Absolution’ phase, just as they’d begin to come into their own. That isn’t to say that they’ve just simply tried to sound like their prior label head’s main project but it is clear that they have some shared admiration for ancient death and black metal. This comes at perhaps the exact wrong time for folks who’d been drowned in records of this Archgoat-esque style (see: Impure‘s ‘Satan’s Eclipse’ and Concrete Winds‘ ‘Primitive Force’) with nearby release dates but Aima differentiates with a distinct approach to black metal riffing that is just slightly more geared towards the exotic rip of early eastern European black metal (see: “The Occultist”).
Do they do enough with those death metal influences to yank in folks who are still on the fence in terms of war metal? No, I wouldn’t say they really hammer out any pure death metal moments that’ll sell a discerning fellow on the sub-genre itself but there -are- some monster riffs here that’ll more than likely win over the Goatlord loving sort of maniac who wants a heavier, well-shaped experience that still captures the fury of war metal. The doomed mid-section of “Possessed Preacher”, the cursed rites that introduce “The Occultist” and the combination of both elements on “Carve Ritualistic Pictographs on Forehead” and “Hands of Blood” all serve to shape a highly repeatable listening experience that never serves to overwhelm the listener with pure muscular atmosphere. There is a brain at work behind these riffs and the only fault I can find is kicking things off too hotly with the death metal peak “Goatfuck Redemption” that the rest of the album doesn’t necessarily live up to in terms of pure death metal excess. It sets the bar higher than the rest of the album intends but, to be fair this will only likely perturb death metal purists who’d be better off looking elsewhere for solidarity.
Beyond notes of style and comparisons to better established bands the clear worth of ‘Tragos’ lies in its listenability and generally strong flow of ideas that easily power between atmospheric death metal, first and early second wave black metal and various nuances only war metal could unite. I do find Aima‘s debut above average and a well arranged set of ideas that are worthy if only for the bold strides taken away from puritanical war metal pace and typically amorphous structure. As such I can give moderately high recommendation for this album. For preview purposes I’d recommend “Hands in Blood” and “The Occultist” to start and if you’re just not getting enough death riffs “Goatfuck Redemption” will be your savior.
Separating the goats from the sheep. 3.75/5.0
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