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Argentum – Salve Victoria

Salve Victoria

Salve Victoria

Formed in 2006, Argentum delve into martial and neoclassical sounds on some of their albums, but also release music that ranges from noise and power electronics to folk ballads. Ideologically, they are staunchly against the first world’s intervention in their home country of Argentina. They are anti-NATO, anti-U.K., and seem to hold a real grudge for the ’82 Falklands war. I’m not sure how the average Argentinian feels about this, but the band themselves display pictures on their social media outlets wearing balaclavas and camouflage fatigues, as well as old photos from the Falklands conflict with aggressive commentaries. The liner notes of their 2011 album, Salve Victoria, contain no lyrics or credits, but are filled with quotes from philosophers and writers about oppressed peoples’ struggle for freedom from civilization, laws, cops, judges, and soldiers intervening in their lives.

‘En Las Profundidades’, the intro track on Salve Victoria, opens with the sounds of water splashing and a distant, unplaceable rumbling. This is the most atmospheric that this album gets, so enjoy it. The track winds away after two minutes with a hint of choir, and the album proper begins. The first actual song, ‘Alquimia’, is a disappointing slap in the face; the intro summoned images of exploring some dank and undisturbed cave, fearful of falling into a hole or being eaten by a predatory beast. Instead I hear what sounds like a demo or sketch of a song—intended only for the other band members—which was likely banged off on an old Casio keyboard the night before a practise. The entire song (like most on the album) is one riff and one or two chord progressions; all the elements come in just after the first minute, so there is nothing else to build up to or anticipate. The drum machine groove continues unchanged for the entire track, only occasionally dropping out to highlight a synth passage. And the drums are stock indeed: unabashedly mechanical, with no effort made to humanize the sound. These sounds are a mix of synthetic and samples, but their machine-like nature really glares in the robotic snare and the bright, tinny, stiff cymbals. Is this really the sound that Argentum were looking for after four years?  It’s worth noting that Salve Victoria was released in 2011, so their sound has had time to evolve since the days of this record, but for a band who had at least half a decade to mature their sound, this is simply an embarrassingly weak effort.

In noise—and to a lesser extent, old-school industrial—it’s perfectly okay to put out raw albums with almost no ‘production’ of any kind. That style serves many artists well. Martial music, however, profits from astute use of tone, timbre, feeling, groove, and all the other elements that make up traditional musical forms, which are conspicuously absent on this release. Experience with noise does not seem to translate well into martial music in this case. Where Salve Victoria does succeed to some degree is when the songs get a bit nastier: a song like ‘Argentum’, for example, which is mostly slow and piano-driven during the mellow parts, gets a mechanical clanging beat and blasts of white noise over the snare drum when the intensity builds to a climax. It has an edge and a harshness that the other tracks lack, and it carries some interest because of this.

Argentum

Argentum

There are almost no words on Salve Victoria; in fact, more are written in the liner notes than spoken during any of the songs. I played ‘Malvinias Argentinas’, the only track with vocals, for a friend from South America, and he couldn’t make out the lyrics at all; the spoken and sung words are just buried too far in the mix, perhaps an artifact of this album’s weak production. So little verbal content in the songs surprised me when I saw how passionate this band seems to be about the social issues of their part of the world.  Needless to say, Argentum missed an opportunity to make themselves heard in favor of the political ambiguity that plagues so many martial projects today.

As I never tire of saying, martial music is traditionally made for a very specific purpose. Not the usual ‘art for art’s sake’—a common ideology of amateur and professional musicians today—it serves a social function, or at least it did for a time. From its earliest forms up to the polished military bands of today, this music was played for effect. Salve Victoria might have convinced me as a video game soundtrack in the early 2000s, but today it sounds stilted, weak, and outdated. This album emphatically does not fill me with the urge to stomp around my room and pump my fist; nor does it fire into my imagination visions of conflicts both ancient and modern, marching armies, or any of the things I expect from or associate with martial industrial music. To that end, I can’t help but notice that Argentum released two other full-lengths the same year as this album: Águilas de Libertad and a split with Escadron de la Muerte entitled Moerder. It might have behooved them to polish one album instead of releasing three.

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Track List:

01) En Las Profundidades
02) Alquimia
03) La Patria Espiritual
04) Saturngnosis
05) Salve Victoria
06) Militia
07) Argentum
08) El Sol, Nuestro Ideal
09) Malvinas Argentinas
10) Las Mismas Aguas
11) Decisión Soberanía
12) El Futuro es Nuestro
13) Crucero General Belgrano
14) Tierra o Mar
15) Don Juan Manuel
16) Como en el 73

Rating: 2/10
Written by: HD Atkinson
Label: SkullLine (Germany) / SLCD006-11 / CD
Martial Industrial / Neoclassical

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