For something to be “ecstatic,” the feelings and emotions it evokes must transcend what we tend to experience most regularly in our lives. Ecstatic joy isn’t just happiness; it’s a feeling of jubilation which impacts us emotionally and in a metaphysical, arguably spiritual sense too. Although it has long been associated with connotations of the dark and macabre, extreme music has the ability to be a powerful mode of expression for these feelings of absolute bliss, overwhelming love, and awe-inspiring sublimity. Extreme emotions no less and those which black metal quartet Agriculture evokes with its ecstatic subversion of the subgenre’s tropes.
What was initially a meeting and subsequent series of jam sessions between Kern Haug and Daniel Meyer, two musicians in the Los Angeles underground noise scene, would eventually manifest as a shared vision to portray the sublimity of the human experience through the vehicle of heavy music. Following the additions of veteran guitarist Richard Chowenhill and bassist/vocalist Leah Levinson to the band’s lineup, this idea would crystalize into the “ecstatic black metal” backbone of Agriculture’s music, first heard on the band’s 2022 debut EP, The Circle Chant.
With Agriculture’s self-titled record and first full-length LP, it’s abundantly clear that the band’s use of heavy music to showcase the most resplendent emotions and moments of the human experience has a far deeper meaning. Woven between the flurries of soaring tremolo picking, crescendoing guitar harmonies, celebratory screamed vocals, thoughtful improvisation, and meditative atmospheric passages is the record’s mission statement to experience the wonders and joys of both the esoteric and physical world. From examinations of self-acceptance, identity, and finding strength in others on “Look Pt.2” to depictions of deep communion with nature, the self, and the people we surround ourselves with in “The Glory of the Ocean” and “The Well”, the concepts and thematic questions previously planted by the band have blossomed into powerful, fully-realized artistic and philosophical statements. To put it in the band’s words, “...Where The Circle Chant is like a finger pointing at the moon, the self-titled LP is like a whole body screaming at it with reverence.” Through the extreme splendor of ecstatic black metal and the improvisational, experimental, and cathartic elements it embodies, Agriculture illustrates these otherwise incomprehensible questions with a poignant beauty that makes its music as much of an artistic statement as it is a transcendental experience.