Butch Balich was really productive in 2017. First, he managed to get on the RockmusicRaider radar with his Arduini/Balich act. And this one got a pretty good reception already. But – of course – Dawn of Ages was a side project of his as we all know.
Now he is back with his alma mater Argus and their newest concoction From Fields of Fire. After four years of wait, we finally get a new dose of really good ‘ol Heavy Metal the way it was meant to be. Meat and potatoes, the real thing. And all of that delivered with the Graham Bonnet-esque belting that always gets on the sunny side of me.
From Fields of Fire always reminds me of the ’80s when NWoBHM ruled mightily. The album covets styles of Iron Maiden-esque flavors with a somewhat nervous nod towards Hard Rock and early metal bands like Rainbow. But none of that would have kept me with the record longer than 10 minutes. Heard that, done that, got the t-shirt. That kind of thing. It is really that sanguine approach to their metal that kept my ears glued to the earphones. And it is a mighty type of superglue, in many ways a retrograde backwards glance to the seedbed of metal. With a modern twist and a delivery typical to Argus.
Let me just point out the guitar work at first. Argus really deliver on that one with blood red riffing and grandiose soloing that gets them up on a podium with Tony Iommy and the likes. To make things complete, they slap some pensive semi-acoustics and unplugged passages on some of the slower parts. The sense of playful harmony that Jason Mucio and Dave Watson portray is particularly noteworthy. At the end of the day, the guitars nicely supplement Butch Balich‘s mighty voice big time. This provides a much-needed band-aid to sore ears, lest the ever-present roars become predominant and overwhelming.
Now, after some waste of valuable disk time on an … intro, the meaty Devils of Your Time kinda roars out of the gate. This is pretty much the only time From Fields of Fire really resembles the former identity. Argus then decided to get onto some sort of a bluesy, mid-tempo train that often resembles Black Sabbath of late with some crazy nods to age-old tunes by the likes of Whitesnake. Albeit at a much different level of tasty ribeye than the latter. Not that they lost all the former crunch. Look no further than You Are the Curse. Yet, whilst this one delivers crisply, it never really quite rocked me out of my chair.
Even rumbling pieces like Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors of some 11 minutes of length do not disappoint. To the contrary, this track with all its meaty and airy passages definitely takes point on this list of tracks. Not one second is wasted with endless progression or repetition. This is how an epically long track ought to be constructed.
But – as always – not everything is nice and shiny in metal nirvana. The somewhat bland song structures and a certain tendency to stylishly reconquer ground that they already held before really tends to work against the overall quality. And this is a pity: With a tad more innovation, things would look a bit more lively. So, despite all that protein-rich metal diet, the record comes across as somewhat bloodless at times. Just go ahead and compare this album to Sorcerer and their latest metal stew. And you shall see.
In the end, From Fields of Fire is a great record. The somewhat symbiotic concoction of harmonized guitars nicely supporting staunch, meaty vocals really makes the album. That Argus somehow changed tack might (just might) disgust some fans. But this is a normal course of evolution. After all, the band steadily kept their eyes on quality. And delivered a cool, sturdy, down-to-earth Heavy Metal album. True and battle-tested, delivered in a way that metal fans will appreciate.