“Ecstatic” isn’t usually the term you would use to describe black metal. The acerbic electric guitars, pummeling blast beats, and shrieked vocals typically feel more like the charred husk of a burned-down church than anything you’d typically associate with joy (a burned church might bring some folks joy, but that’s a different conversation).
But Flenser newcomers Agriculture describe themselves as “ecstatic black metal,” even printing the phrase down the sleeve of their band shirts. And while black metal has been reappropriated in the last decade or so by bands using its sonic palette to paint in brighter colors, Agriculture manipulates a purer black metal sound into more positive emotional resonance without implementing textures from other non-metallic genres.
Their new single, “The Glory of the Ocean, pt. 2” (the second half of a longer track) is an emphatic demonstration that black metal doesn’t need to have a narrow emotional range. In its five-minute runtime, it ranges from a triumphant major key to anxious discordance to resolute fury, ending with a coda of the opening triumph. It’s a much more varied journey than the previous single, “Look, pt. 1,” which was positively bursting with joy.
Where “Look” was a great introduction for anyone who might raise an eyebrow at the term “ecstatic black metal,” “The Glory of the Ocean” feels like an appetizing sampler platter of all the places they might go on their debut full length, out later this summer. They trek more sonic and emotional ground in 4:44 than many black metal bands do in their entire catalog, let alone a single album. My appetite is certainly whetted for the full album.
Agriculture’s self-titled debut is out July 21 through The Flenser.