For a debut album from an unknown Midwest United States death metal band the shocking amount of class, style and professional performance coming from Sioux Falls, South Dakota quartet Angerot back in 2018 was stunning. ‘The Splendid Iniquity‘ was a bolt of darkness upon our already ever-reddening skies that’d land somewhere between early Bloodbath and ‘Splenium for Nyktophobia‘ where a gift for arrangement and appreciably dramatic feats lay beneath a thick layer of Boss HM-2 crunch, amplified to the point of skull-kicking eminence by the brilliant pairing of Audiosiege and Sunlight Studios’ combined ears. Even when considering their collective resumes in bands like Suffer, Tennessee Murder Club, and Fall these last three decades none of those projects wielded such a bold mark as that of Angerot‘s, who continue to pull themselves above the bar set by North American and Scandinavian death metal classics. Heading into the woods in approach of the bands second full-length, ‘The Divine Apostate’, there was little anxiety that it’d be another solid album but, there was yet any reassurance that they’d grown, changed, or could possibly become more ambitious. Why should they? Without belaboring the point, let all expectations relent now as Angerot vault toward a new and impressive high beyond their debut, a smarter and meaner build upon an already solid foundation.
Though it is an overstatement, consider the shift in clarity from ‘Resurrection Through Carnage’ to ‘Nightmares Made Flesh’ for reference as to how much of a sonic paradigm shift ‘The Divine Apostate’ represents within a first impression. That’d go too far in terms not giving Angerot‘s first album due credit for its strong production values and professional sound design but the main point is that I am hearing more of the songwriting by way of a less bulbous guitar tone. The first two records that came to mind as I took a closer listen were Edge of Sanity‘s second record ‘Unorthodox’, as it carried similar hints of ‘progressive’ thought in its rafters, as well as Intestine Baalism‘s underrated ‘Ulimate Instinct’ for its light use of melody and a similar balance of influences. None of these references will be immediately obvious when firing up ‘The Divine Apostate’ simply because it storms in with a wild nuke, “Below the Deep and Dreamless Sleep”, a harrowing death metal epic that sets a major tone for the rest of the album with haunted chorales, blackened rasps, and rushes of nigh progressive death metal style that’d appear inspired by divine wars and great supernatural conflict.
That first impression defines the listening experience, sets the bar a little bit too high, and ends up being an incredible first foot forward. The momentum carries on from there with some wild leads from Terrance Hobbs (Suffocation) on “O Son of the Morning, O Son of the Dawn” and the major standout, “Vestiments of Cancer”. The midst of this first half of ‘The Divine Apostates’ is where I’d felt the album really hits upon pieces that would land entirely different with Angerot‘s previous guitar sound. “Coalesced with Wickedness” begins with ominous fanfare, soon lunging into a huge “Where the Slime Lives”-styled plateau that introduces finely laced guest vocals from Snowy Shaw (Mad Architect, ex-Denner/Shermann). This is the sort of song that defines ‘The Divine Apostate’ beyond first impressions where each piece begins to warrant a play-by-play for the sake of how much detail they’ve packed in. Between the inspired keyboards of this song and additional dramatic chorales throughout it’d seem the fates pop up consistently (or, within every other song) to damn the blasphemic protagonists on this trip and keep the cathedral-esque swarm of Angerot on edge. This goes a long way to create a unique atmosphere throughout ‘The Divine Apostates’.
From the first listen I’d been overwhelmed by Side A, a densely detailed and mercilessly heavy death metal experience, to the point that I’d take a break before Side B kicked in with its instrumental (“Each Night as You Sleep, I Destroy”) for the sake of digesting where they’d taken me. I wouldn’t say that the bigger ideas are front-loaded but instead that Side B avoids drowning in the wealth of ideas on its other half, optioning their more straight forward perspective on death metal. The songwriting therein focuses on some of the bands more classic Swedish death metal influences (“Father, Mentor”) and though it doesn’t ultimately put up a finale that matches the grand intensity of their entrance the flow of the record is no less successful ’til the end. The full listening experience lands around ~36 minutes and this feels like the exact right length for the density of ideas ‘The Divine Apostate’ brings.
Even though I did prefer the first half of the record the flow of events isn’t at all perturbed; The fanfare of the opener, the dramatic burst in the middle, and the brutal push unto the end do not suffer due to the full spin being exactly the right length. I would’ve personally flipped “Counsel of the Ungodly” with “Coalesced With Wickedness” for the sake of their lining up just as well with the instrumental, but only because I’d wanted more of a boost to kick off that second half. So, is it even better than the first album? I wouldn’t even approach Angerot‘s two albums that way, they are two different beasts with similar influences but ‘The Divine Apostate’ is not a plain follow-up but a whole resurfacing of the bands sound. As a fan I am grateful for the additional clarity, the impressive ambition applied, and the still merciless barrage they bring. A high recommendation, especially if you’re the type to key into propulsive Swanö-esque death metal.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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