Agriculture's Self-Titled Record Is Ablaze with Joyous Noise

BY Jeremy SheehyPublished Jul 18, 2023

Black metal has a reputation for being a somewhat gloomy and melancholic affair, and a quick glance at the genre's sordid history illustrates that this reputation is not unearned. There have, of course, been notable releases that circumvent this stereotype, with the likes of Deafheaven and Liturgy being some of the most successful. However, although those releases are on the more hopeful side, it would be a stretch to call them joyful. Agriculture, the debut album from the band of the same name, is truly joyful — and so much more.

Agriculture describes their music as "ecstatic black metal," a descriptor that sounds almost silly at first. However, as soon as the first song makes its way through its post-rock-influenced introduction and the blast beats kick in, it becomes clear that this is the only appropriate term to describe the glorious noise presented. Every facet of the music drips with extreme jubilation; the riffs manage to be fast and heavy while staying bright in tone, the vocals, while harsh, come off as cries of exaltation instead of lament, and even the tone of the instruments feels more akin to a shoegaze wall of sound than the harsh buzzsaw the genre is known for. Top to bottom, Agriculture embraces its themes and ensures that joy has permeated every part of it; if that was all it did, it would still be a great album. What pushes it into the territory of something extraordinary comes early in the form of the album's second track, "The Well."

Initially, "The Well" feels jarring and out of place, its sparse, quiet nature feeling more at home on a Mount Eerie album than a black metal record, but as it ends and the first notes of the next song begin, it all starts falling into place. "Look, Pt. 1" is essentially the black metal version of "The Well," and while this seems odd at first, this repetition of melody and lyrics grounds the listener in the music, giving them something to latch onto and making the musical extremity that comes later more digestible and familiar. This one track, clocking in at slightly under two minutes, grants the album an emotional anchor that everything else builds on. While this would likely remain a great album without "The Well," its presence pushes it into the Something Special category.

In a year already brimming with excellent black metal releases, this exclamation of unrelenting joy stands out as one of the genre's best and most essential new releases. It's far from conventional, and some will scoff at the clean vocals on "The Well" and the overall major tonality, but those who do will miss something unique and special. With this album, Agriculture has created one of the most exciting and inspiring metal debuts in recent memory; it's a release that deserves to be heard by anyone with even a remote interest in heavy music. 
(The Flenser)

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