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Album Review: Varathron – Patriarchs of Evil

Six full-lengths over three decades makes for a precarious discography to explore, but Varathron has stayed closer to their core elements than most bands with a similar track record (Mayhem, anyone?). Time has polished the Greek group’s brand of melodic black metal, but they remain defined by traditional metal riffwork and catchy guitar harmonies, friendly relations with slower tempos, and Stefan Necroabyssious’ eccentric yelps.

However, a more grandiose presentation does set Patriarchs of Evil apart from its predecessors. In addition to a very clean production job, a greater emphasis on complementary acoustic guitars and subtle choral fanfare results in a more “epic” tone. These elements were hinted at on 2014’s Untrodden Corridors of Hades but are on full display here. It’s honestly not too far off from what Behemoth or Immortal have been up to lately either, especially on the slowest songs like “Remnants of the Dark Testament” and “Ouroboros Dweller (The Dweller of Barathrum).”

The musicianship is also tight as hell. Despite the intricate layers and near constant buildups and shifts, the mix never feels too overproduced and the instruments are all thoroughly efficient. The guitars and drums are especially tight, the vocals serve as a strong unifier, and even the bass gets a couple places to stand out. It’s very telling that this is the first Varathron album to feature the same lineup more than once.

Patriarchs of Evil is easily Varathron’s most accessible album to date. The cleaner production and theatrical songwriting run the risk of sounding homogenous, but the album never disconnects from everything else that the band has accomplished. It could very well attract a new audience, but it shouldn’t alienate those who used to a more lo-fi take on melodic black metal. At the very least, I applaud Varathron for still bringing out their best so late in such a long running career.

“Luciferian Mystical Awakening”
“Remnants of the Dark Testament”
“Hellwitch (Witches Gathering)”
“Ouroboros Dweller (The Dweller of Barathrum)”

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