Agiel's Dark Pantheons EP is immediate. From the second this five-song romp starts, the listener is gifted with constant blasting rhythms accentuated by computer generated symphonies a platter of vocal techniques which, within the eighteen minute playtime, is concentrated enough to not become grating if still being boring. The overall effect of the keyboards, programmed sounds is not dissimilar to that of latter period Emperor. The production is very modern here and even with all possible methods to get a better mix and better timbre from instruments such as the drums and the bass - especially the bass which sounds more like a pile of slop than a stringed instrument - there is a muddiness that is present. Agiel's product: an over-the-top brutal death metal album that borrows some symphonic black metal elements and mashes them together to mixed effects. Parts of this five-song EP sound absolutely strong and engaging while others are stagnant and - for all the blistering speed and technique - boring.
This is best evidenced by the placement of the stronger "Deeds Rendered Upon The Flesh" between the weaker "The Awakening" and opening title track "Dark Pantheons." Where "Deeds..." creates some atmosphere and direction with the keyboards, outlines some melody and uses the unnatural drum tone to create the effect of a marching army, the songs that bookend are more than not over-expressed renditions. Even strong mid-sections which allow the sampled choral segments to shine in "The Awakening" fail to set the track apart, even though there are plenty of opportunities to let up. The drums are often too overbearing and Agiel would do themselves a huge favor by using them in a manner that better highlights the dramatics of the rest of the music - more as a classical composition would use percussion than as death metal artists usually use drums. "Serpent Masquerade" shines light on this issue from the beginning where obnoxiously fast drums smear interesting ideas in dust and during the Arcturus-esque bridge that follows the drums simply sound as if they don't have any other ideas to offer.
As the EP moves along, we begin to see how Agiel have simply not offered much variety to the listener. We are given fast, blasting segments and very little bit else. Though "Deeds Rendered Upon The Flesh" is a definite highlight, I'm not impressed with the usage of the rest of the material here. Even though there is plenty of room for Agiel to take these tracks, build them as compositions and emphasize the intensity with contrasting moments, they've been unable to do so. Being that these tracks were all taken from their 2002 debut full length, Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign and "was revisited and re-imagined for a new era" it's possible that we've missed out a lot of the context from where these tracks were pulled. According to the Agiel website, this material is intended to bridge the gap from their earlier material to their current material. Having never heard their full length - and probably never will since this material didn't particularly rouse my interest - I feel as if Agiel would have been better served by simply putting out new music instead of older tracks re-recorded.