AGRETATOR  Delusions  LP   (Dark Symphonies)   22.00

Long out of print, the 1994 release Delusions was Agretator's only full-length album. Released by Crypta Records, Delusions was followed by the Distorted Logic EP and one more demo before they more or less morphed into Darkane around 1998. In the years since, the band has been relegated to a footnote in Swedish death metal history, but their music is actually an interesting discovery for fanaticss of the sort of eccentric early 1990s death metal I'm generally obsessed with; while Darkane fans would probably find this primarily of interest as a precursor to that band's work, this stuff is a different sort of beast compared to Darkane's thrashing, melodic death metal. Some of those melodic stylings are hinted at throughout these nine songs, but this brand of death metal is grimier, dirtier, much more convoluted, as their songs combine hoarse, harsh vocals and winding, sinister leads with a staccato, obsidian-edged riffing style that produces some fairly complex and confusional moments. Those often sophisticated riffs frequently tangle themselves into unusual forms, sometimes slipping into a battering, mathy chug-attack, or passages of intricate, somewhat "jazzy" atmosphere. Ever-so-brief flashes of baroque harpsichord, acoustic guitar, and gleaming symphonic synthesizers appear amid the rapid-fire riff changes and intricately woven arrangements, which adds to this album’s offbeat vibe. But at the same time, Agretator crank the speed into thrash tempos, and when they aren't hammering you with those lopsided, weirdly Watchtower-ish lockstep riffs, it's a vicious speed attack.

Like their other recordings, this does suffer from somewhat thin production, but the level of energy and creativity on this album comes through in spades, giving us some killer head-turning moments like the spacey "Pointless Objection" and the off-kilter deathchug of "Human Decay". Overall, this mixture of complexity, offbeat composition, and moments of weird atmosphere connect Agretator's sound to similar territory as old-school tech / prog death legends like Atheist, Pestilence, Cynic and Death. Not as polished as those bands, obviously, but the crazed imaginative musicianship and lust for weird song structures comes on strong.

The last batch of songs on the disc come from the 1994 Kompakt Kraft compilation, which showcased a various assortment of Swedish bands from that time period. Both of these tunes are ripping, among the band's best, in fact (and featuring an improved, somewhat meatier production compared to the album material), with "Dull Reality" erupting into some bludgeoning, almost Meshuggah-esque mech-riffage that grinds you down into fractal patterns. Man, it's a blast.

As per usual, Dark Symphonies focuses on creating an exact duplicate of the original release, but augments this with a twelve-page booklet with lyrics, album notes and new liner notes from guitarist Christofer Malmstrom.