Tuesday, January 14, 2014

…cast out all demons lurking inside: ARGUS – ‘Beyond the Martyrs’

Classic heavy metal never loses its luster and Pennsylvania’s standard bearers of melodic, hook-driven metal, Argus, keep their collective fingers on the pulse of yesteryear with their gaze firmly fixed on the future. ‘Beyond the Martyrs’, the band’s third full-length, continues to explore their hybridization of sounds established by such greats as Scorpions, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, and both Ozzy and Dio era incarnations of Black Sabbath to stunning effect. Though the band has an obvious admiration for these forefathers, and for good reason, they have developed a finely tuned, razor-sharp approach all their own.

At the heart of their sound lies the powerful and commanding vocals of Butch Balich and the dual guitar harmonies of Erik Johnson and Jason Mucio. The one-two punch of “The Hands of Time are Bleeding” and “Trinity” fully demonstrates both Balich’s soaring vocal capabilities and Johnson and Mucio’s talents. Though the guitars and vocals have an immediate impact upon the listener, the contributions of the rhythm section consisting of drummer Kevin Latchaw and bassist Andy Ramage should not be underestimated. Together, Latchaw and Ramage lay a foundation of hefty, galloping rhythms for their band members to build upon. The end result is one of 2013’s catchiest, most rewarding heavy metal albums.

Argus has always included elements of doom on their albums to some degree or other, but ‘Beyond the Martyrs’ seems to reign in those tendencies in favor of even more melodicism and an increase in head-banging, driving rhythms. While those doom-tinged moments have taken a back seat, they are not completely forgotten. Album highlight “The Coward’s Path” is an epic doom anthem complete with arguably the heaviest riffs of the collection as well as some of the most engaging, searing guitar leads.

‘Beyond the Martyrs’, like all of Argus’ output, is an incredibly strong collection of tunes without a single weak link in the lot. Heavy, hook-driven instrumentation, amazing vocals and killer lyrical themes that range from the historical to the personal are what Argus are all about. Fans of classic heavy metal in all its forms and doom should be impressed not only by Argus’ unique transmutations of old into new, but also the entirety of their recorded output. ‘Beyond the Martyrs’, like many early gems of hard rock and metal, is an instantly gratifying listen that never ceases to shine.



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