Skagos – Anarchic
Release: Single, 2012 (Self-Released)
Genre: Cascadian Black Metal
Sonic Brethren: Alda, Lantlôs, Altar of Plagues
Anarchic is the first release in two years from the secretive Canadian duo. Hailing from Courtenay, British Columbia, the band is the furthest removed from Cascadian scene and has only performed live on rare, special occasions using a different name. They’ve been steadily gaining in notoriety and are consistently featured in any “best Cascadian Black Metal” list worth its weight in soggy ash. With only one full-length to their name and a handful of splits and other short-form recordings, this offering ends the band’s longest dormant period since their 2007 inception.
The piece is a single, long track that weaves through different moods, movements and energies. Such long-form singular pieces have been becoming more popular in the genre(s) recently, although this is Skagos’ most lengthy track to date. Bookended by ethereal acoustic passages that toy with a mellow approach, the quarter-hour song is as much a meditation exercise as it is a recorded medium. Dissonance builds as faint hints of melody dance in the background. It continues to grow and finally breaks, but instead of an eruption into chaos, Skagos hone their inner Alcest and the foreboding dread dissipates into a calming dreamscape. It dances like a ghost with reverby vocal melodies and a warm analog buzz. When the floodgates eventually open and the blackened torrent comes pouring in, the other-worldly vocals still haunt the background and keep the darkness from growing too deep.
Their most polished work to date, Anarchic effectively uses thick layering to create their heavy atmosphere, instead of relying on the standard hypnotic guitar lines. The band has clearly matured and honed their craft during the past few years, and you can hear it in every note, every strum. But one of the real gems of Anarchic is the percussion. A welcome trend to the PNW black metal scene, bands like Skagos are realizing what many trve purveyors have for too long ignored, that the drums should not be considered a backing instrument. Real, natural beats and fills that sound like an actual human is active behind the skins, not just sitting in the background, following those in front. These are the sounds of a growing band.
A wondrous piece, it will no doubt leave their fans wondering when (or if) another proper full length will be released. But considering the depth and repeatability of Anarchic, listeners will be left satisfied for a good, long while.
Final Thoughts: A dreamy progression in Skagos’ sound, Anarchic is full of surprises and intrigue while taking a great stride away from simplicity.