Anguish?s debut is an hour?s worth of pulverizing, enervating doom, imbued with the classic hallmarks of stripped-down Scandinavian metal. With a heart so frosty it borders on the hypothermic, Through the Archdemon?s Head has prompted some to draw comparisons with the work of fellow patriot Candlemass. This is an unavoidable charge considering that Candlemass?s timeless triptych ? Nightfall, Ancient Dreams and Tales of Creation ? drafted the blueprint for mainland Europe?s doom scene in the ?80s. Anguish could hardly exist without containing traces of such a formative band. Still, that?s a long way from suggesting that Anguish is in any way a clone. Like any young band?s debut, Through the Archdemon?s Head melds together various influences. While Candlemass is evident in some of the more harmonious riffs of Anguish?s guitarists, David Eriksson and Kribbe Christoffer Frylmark, the band also references the icy inhospitality of Bathory and Lord Vicar, as well as the scrappiness of Witchfinder General. Switzerland?s most hostile progeny, Celtic Frost, gets a look-in, too, with Anguish?s frontman J. Dee favouring a similarly guttural vocal style. The expectation that cleaner, plumper, and more soaring vocals would be used is understandable given the album?s classic doom leanings, but Dee?s cutthroat, gravelly chants on ?Illusive Damnation? make its rumbling torment all the more squalid. On ?Vile? he spits venom more than sings, and his evil mutterings are highly effective. All of the band?s influences are tossed into the mix, and although doom metal has some fairly stringent parameters, Anguish still manages to score its own distinctive mark. And that?s not an insubstantial achievement. The sluggish tempo of Through the Archdemon?s Head is filled with more than a few dirge-like and numbing moments, so there?s something to be said for the band?s ability to keep your attention when the songs they deliver are so unremittingly bleak and devastating. ?When the Ancients Dare to Walk?, ?Dawn of Doom? and ?Book of Fox? are all towering monuments of doom, with impenetrable riffs and great flourishing solos. The heavy gothic aura haunting the tracks and the crunchy rhythms ensure the album remains an example of pure, old-school, menacing doom. Eriksson and Frylmark make certain the album is packed with memorable guitar work. ?Lair of the Gods?, the most upbeat track, features some excellent chugging riffs, and a startlingly brilliant solo that?s ably supported by some furious percussion courtesy of drummer Ralle. At the album?s mid-point, it comes as something of a relief, offering a rousing counterpoint to all that has come before. Anguish saves its best work for last. ?Morbid Castle?, the album?s final and longest track, shifts through varying oppressive moods, with its grim and choking atmosphere cut by surges of teasing riffs. Teetering on the edge of adding some velocity, but never fulfilling the promise, the simmering riffs are counterpointed by tantalizing mellifluous leads and a few evil cackles, hammering down the fact that there?s no escape from the track?s baleful ambience. It?s all quite brilliant, and you have to admire the band?s ability to strip away whatever armour you?ve built up to protect you from the world, leaving you feeling decidedly vulnerable. Through the Archdemon?s Head is a grand debut from Anguish. Pitiless and lugubrious, the album?s epic tunes contain an abundance of forbidding metal. It might all be a bit daunting, and for the unprepared no doubt traumatic, but for fans of brooding, anachronistic doom, Anguish are a band that?ll resonate with you immediately. Candlemass be damned ? Anguish has its own sound and own spirit, both of which are utterly crushing.