Jul 172023

(Andy Synn digs deep into Agriculture‘s highly-anticipated debut album, out this Friday)

The Circle Chant, the debut EP from self-described “ecstatic Black Metal” band Agriculture, received a lot of hype – in certain circles, at least – when it was released last year.

And while I, perhaps unsurprisingly, felt that some of these reactions were a little overblown – two really good tracks and two bits of filler content does not make for a great release overall, in my book – the best moments of the EP (most specifically the opening title-track, which is basically five minutes of raw emotional energy in musical form) convinced me to keep an eye and an ear open for whatever the band did next.

Which is where their self-titled album comes in.

Having sat with this album for some time now, going back and forth over its six songs like a farmer inspecting his latest crop, I feel it’s my duty to warn you that Agriculture doesn’t necessarily put its best foot forward first.

That’s not to say that its ambitious eight-minute opener is a bad song by any means – the slow, swelling atmosphere of its first few minutes in particular makes for a riveting, if restrained, introduction – it’s more that, as it progresses, “The Glory of the Ocean” stops and starts a little too much and ends up feeling a bit like three different tracks loosely cut together, rather than a singular, cohesive whole.

And this, when combined with the sudden unexpected shift to melancholy minimalism in the form of the solitary guitar and plaintive singing which makes up “The Well”, ultimately means that the band’s first attempt at writing a full-length album stutters and stumbles a little bit as it tries, perhaps, to run before it can walk.

However… if we take “The Well” as the record’s true starting point, it’s a different matter entirely.

Beginning with “Look, Pt. 1” (which cleverly references and reworks elements of “The Well” into its frenetic, almost frenzied delivery) the LA quartet do their very best to earn their self-proclaimed “ecstatic Black Metal” moniker by allowing the sheer electricity generated by their music to lift them (and, by extension, their listeners) outside of themselves, inducing – at its most elemental and intense – a state of manic euphoria that seems (especially during “Look, Pt. 3”) to be almost, but not quite, out of their control.

Intriguingly, and perhaps controversially, this sense of spontaneity and elemental intensity frequently – especially during the first two parts of the “Look” trilogy – puts me in mind of early Astronoid, albeit far grittier and more grounded in Black Metal obviously, with Agriculture perhaps being the “earth” to the former band’s “air” (even though the two have little in common apart from a shared love of blastbeats and provocative genre-tags).

It’s with “Relier”, however, that you really get a sense of what this particular band are capable of when they truly cut loose from all their constraints, with the almost unrelenting maximalism and reckless abandon of the track – save for an all-too brief interlude of bass–heavy calm that just barely allows you time to catch your breath – whipping up a dervish-like storm of sound and motion that threatens to overwhelm your senses at any moment.

At times breathtaking, at others exasperating, I have no doubt that Agriculture‘s self-titled album will serve to both captivate and infuriate listeners in equal measure over the coming months and years.

And while their “ecstatic” take on Black Metal may not be the revolutionary act of artistic subversion it’s been portrayed as elsewhere – at its hearts it’s not exactly a million miles away from what the likes of An Autumn For Crippled ChildrenVattnet Viskar, and even early Deafheaven (circa-Roads to Judah) have done before – with these songs the band have successfully planted the seeds which, with a little time and careful cultivation, could one day grow into something truly worthy of all the hype.


  1. Thanks for the honest review! I had a similar reaction from the EP and listening to “The Glory of the Ocean” and felt I was going crazy and missing something. I appreciate hearing I’m not alone.

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