Dark Souls is a franchise perhaps best known for its difficulty—even if people have been able to beat it with steering wheels, it takes a certain type of patience and mastery. It's also got incredibly deep lore that requires some reading between the lines. But beyond all of that, and perhaps sometimes not stated enough, it's just kind of badass. You don't have to read a scrap of flavor text or crack open the wiki to notice it: there's no boring enemies or fodder to fill space, the environments are a stunning take on dark fantasy, and every new boss is weirder and mightier than the last. Even getting killed in these games can be pretty awesome, if infuriating.

Illyrian, a Calgary-based thrash metal band, tackles Dark Souls on their new Aegis EP in a markedly more aggressive and up-front way than darker, gloomier musical takes on the game's lore have in the past. Following the story of Gwyn, Lord of Cinders, Aegis is a sword-rattling assault full of spark and fire, mixing thrash metal with melodic death metal to evoke the bizarre extravagance that lies beneath the somber miasma. I'll add that you don't need to know a damn thing about Dark Souls to enjoy the polished, steely riffs here, so stream the EP in full now below before it releases Friday:



Aegis has a sort of video-game-boss quality to it—fitting, since Gwyn is a boss, and the EP holds its own as would befit the Lord of Cinders. The screamed and occasionally growled vocals have an odd charm to them, full of more eccentric character than menace. Like progressing through phases, each track on Aegis pushes the sound forward, culminating in "Age of Dark Master," a seven-minute closer with absurdly detailed lead work and probably the grimmest mood on the album.

With a heavy emphasis on technical skill and preserving momentum, the EP is full of clever surprises: as the band runs their devilish riffs through melodic progressions, they jam in sudden start-stops and unpredictable twists. Interlocked, byzantine segments break up the more straightforward technical thrash parts, and flashy solos are often unexpected highlights, like a brief midpoint bit on "Age of Fire."

As much as getting wrecked by an innocuous-looking skeleton is a common happening in Dark Souls, once you've got the hang of that and put in the time, the player becomes the aggressor, hewing through hordes of weird foes with murderous precision. Combining technical skill, lethality, and eccentric charisma, Aegis pays apt tribute to this aspect of its source material, showcasing the fury and deadliness that awaits within.

The band comments:

Aegis is a concept EP about the popular video game series, Dark Souls. At a high level, it follows the story of one of the game’s more prolific characters, Gwyn - a being who rises from nothing to godhood, builds civilizations, falls to his hubris and dooms everything, and finally sacrifices himself to stave off total desolation of the world he’s built.

Plus the game’s about slaying demons - how could we not write a metal album about it?


Aegis releases October 15th and can be pre-ordered/pre-saved here.

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