Death metal influences and a cowbell in hand, AGLO explore brave new worlds of sludge with their debut album.

Release date: November 10, 2023 | Oblivious Maximus Records | Bandcamp | Instagram | Spotify

The metal scene in my nation’s capital, Canberra, is an interesting one with its own rich past. Notably, it was home to the Metal For The Brain festival, an annual charity concert established by Armoured Angel drummer / vocalist Joel Green (after one of his friends suffered severe and permanent brain damage and was rendered a quadriplegic attempting to stop a fight outside a night club) in 1991. It regularly hosts Canberra Metal Fest, and Sunburn Festival, and is home to a host of established acts like Armoured Angel, Alchemist, Pod People, Lucifungus, Witchskull, Psychrist, as well as being home to one Aaron Osbourne.

On top of hosting the Oblivious Maximus podcast, Osbourne has been involved in bands like I, ExistBurn The Hostages, and more recently Mental Cavity – their 2019 album Neuro Siege was my introduction to the multi-instrumentalist’s work, where he contributed guitars and vocals to a blistering 32 minutes of taught, break-neck hardcore-tinged sludge, an album I also highly recommend. His latest project is AGLO, in which he performs guitars, bass, and vocals – recruiting Colin Young of Twitching Tongues to cover drums.  Back in February they released the album closer “Into The Maze” as a single, which included a B-side of sorts in the monolithic “Parasites”.

At first listen to Build Fear, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d found a ‘slow’ death metal album, that’s if death metal got absolutely stoned off its tits before hitting the studio; Osbourne’s growl is as deep as the Mariana Trench, and draws the listener in. However, the constant, furious double kick drums and rapid-fire machine-gun guitars are less prevalent here, as AGLO serves up plenty of sustained riffs, rich bottom-end bass, and primal drumming amidst the chugging, combining in a sludge sound deep enough for you to drown in. A curious combination, and like many things here, it just works.

Album opener “Last Rites” roars to life, and the riffs, the bass, the drums, the vocals, they’re all tuned to peak performance, so fist-pumping and head-bangingly good that they circumvent the logic centre to speak to the primeval part of the brain. It’s also the first sludge song I can recall of to make use of a cowbell; unexpected at first listen, it feels a little out of place, perhaps even a little goofy, but upon repeat listens it just…works. Hell, nothing is more metal than making a conscious decision to stand out – or perhaps it might be more apt to say – go where no one has gone before. It makes a return on the following track “Storm of Fears”, so if you have a fever, the only prescription may be more AGLO.

“Regression” is a more groove-injected cut than the rest, opened by a gargantuan doom riff that wallops you in the chest like a battering ram, before catching and dragging you underneath it for the next 4 minutes, and is a definite highlight of the album for me. The main riff’s catchiness plays well into its repetition here, and AGLO know how to throw us a few twists and turns along the way to keep things interesting before bringing it back, nastier and heavier.

“Relativity Undone” has a more mournful riff as its centrepiece, and “Shame as a Weapon” completes what could be considered almost a triptych with the opening two tracks. “Warhead” is possibly the most brutal sounding song on the record, particularly the back end where those death-inspired double-kick drums rear up out of hiding to rain down on us like shells. And it’s surprising that “Into The Maze” was chosen as a single, as it almost serves as a summary of everything AGLO have marched us through the last forty-odd minutes…or perhaps it’s not that surprising after all.

All in all, the 7 tracks that make up Build Fear are tight, bold, and heavy as hell. There is enough here to separate AGLO amongst the sludge scene without them having to be too showy; their music is not here to fuck around. In place of the sleazy or blues-tinged or raspy, screamed vocals common to sludge, Osbourne’s bottomless growls both differentiate AGLO and complement the instrumentation in its own unique way. The music is as thick as a double peanut butter and mortar sandwich, with more than its fair share of headbanging, foot-stomping, moshable riffs and beats, and that’s not to say nothing of the cowbell.  It just works. Add in some obscure Star Trek: Voyager samples, and you have one of the most unique sludge releases to bring the year to a close.  The only final frontier this writer needs to experience with them is witnessing their crushing output live.

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