Agathodaimon Serpent's Embrace

With album number four, Agathodaimon have fallen on the lighter side of the fence they were riding between black metal and the less grim varieties of the genre. Not that the band has abandoned screechy vocals or left droning chainsaw guitars and blast beats entirely in the past; songs like "Rebirth” still lean toward a nastier sound. It’s just that now extremity plays second fiddle to prog-influenced keyboards (think recent Soilwork) and pop-metal groove. The transition hasn’t been poorly handled — the title track especially has a catchy bore-into-the-brain quality — it’s just that the changes are a little inconsistent at times, like the fruits of songwriting by split personalities. Perhaps it’s better that Agathodaimon didn’t try to recreate Chapter III’s most successful moments on Serpent’s Embrace. The new album has some momentary gems of its own, but it’s just a little sad that the band had begun to find its way only to give it up for a different path — or rather multiple and sometimes contradictory ones. (Nuclear Blast)