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The geographical shift in the propagation of black metal has changed drastically over the past three decades. And while all genres of music see trends in hot spots all across the world, bm’s movement has been particularly interesting. After its beginnings in England, the Nordic second wave took over and held the title as the blasphemic epicenter of the world for a solid 10+ years. As their southern neighbors caught on and the North Americans caught up, waves of fantastic darkness fanned out across the globe. In recent years there’s been an explosion in the USBM scene, with the French and Germans also steadily outputting hundreds out worthy purveyors. But for my money, Greece is currently spewing forth the most interesting mix of blackened acts.
Little surprise that a country experiencing so much turmoil has been lashing out with pissed-off extreme music; an economy in ruins and a vast mistrust of the government is the perfect breeding ground for such passionate exhortations. What Rotting Christ started more than 20 years ago, a horde of young guns have been carrying forward with a plethora of fantastic releases; Ravencult’s Morbid Blood is one of my favorite thrashened attacks, and last year’s debut from Hail Spirit Noir was a powerfully unique album. Which brings us to the newest release from Acrimononious, a band whose decade of existence has seen releases few and far between.
I almost passed on this album, assuming from the trippy cover art that it was just another drugged-out Electric Wizard clone. But upon learning the group shares members in common with American psychotics Nightbringer it piqued my interest. And what the quintet offers forth is a fascinating foray into thinking-man’s black metal. Falling somewhere between the psychedelic and progressive spectrum of things, these Greeks spew forth lengthy attacks of mind-fuckery with their bipolar verses. Some passages are drawn on for minutes, others stop on a dime and contort themselves into territory as familiar as guitar solos or as confounding as Gregorian-style group chants. Drawing on lyrics from global mythologies, Acrimonious doesn’t deal in your cliché Christ-bashing and seem to have more in common with the philosophy of Nile than that of Watain.
Sunyata is a tough one to digest, the eight tracks take some getting use to as the band’s style is more concerned with creating whole pieces of art rather than a few short interesting hooks or choruses. With a riffing style similar to latter-day Belphegor the album isn’t wholly unfamiliar to those with a taste for extreme metal, but it sits on the palate as quite the oddity for the first few listenes. But as you reach the final few songs, Acriomnious’ talent become immediately apparent. “Vitalising the Red-Purple in Asher-Zemurium” is the definite highlight of the album, conjuring up a Marduk-like groove with a vortex of a melody that will get stuck in your cranial box. The sophomore release is a powerful one, with no slump to be found and the sort of attitude that shows creative masterminds at their best. If only a country’s debt could be paid for in high quality black metal, Greece’s debt crisis would be solved.
There is more to death than the physiological experience of it. It is the sensation we feel when our conscious is latent on the idea of emptiness. The semi-permanent state many individuals experience. Sunyata is a Buddhist term to signify this absence in all stimuli, as is the album title of Acrimonious’s sophomore full-length release via Agonia Records.
“Nexus Aosoth” is the first to activate and sedate the temporal lobe. It’s a trance-like instrumental constructed to lubricate the intricacy that follows within the passage of the next state. The magnificence, Sunyata, displays is its creative tendencies to write riffs that are unique and ponder its transgression into existentialism. Also the renowned disposition of primitive recording is transparent. For those who criticize what they don’t understand will probably favor this loop hole for all you conniving mortals. Ever acquaint yourselves with Krallice? Upon hearing your first encounters you might not hear the connection but listen and see there’s a subtle resemblance about how they go about their songs.
The notable aspect of “Lykaria Hecate” is the interlude where flames begin to crackle and churn, slowly introducing your doom as an organ dispels all counter-intuition. This potency is transferred into Akhkhar as he takes in the incantation to proceed with the benevolence even further. All that needs to be said about “Glory crowned Son of the Thousand Petalled Lotus” is a rhythm within the content that daintily resembles the simplicity of Metallica’s “The Unforgiven”.
Another commodity you should consider is Acrimonious derives from the knee-jerking consistency of blast-beats. Also the consideration of two different types of main vocals that take place. First is the transference of spoken folk vocals. The second requires a bit of thought on your part to see the adaptable description. Imagine Dallas from Nile fronting a black metal band. He’d have to let relax his cords a bit to manifest the proper octave. To smooth out the current thought pattern let’s move on to “The Hollow Wedjat”. Preserving on the same subject, this song actually starts out with an Egyptian sounding introduction. The deficiency of it all is this is the worst song on “Sunyata”.
The remaining keep up the momentum since initiation and riffs continue to convey gracefully-crafted introspection and daring portrayal. “The Sloughted Scales of Seperation” for instance, has a beautiful acoustic interlude. “Vitalising the Red-Purple in Asher-Zemurium” showcases their ingenuity. Now “Black Kundalini” is staggering! It knocks away your breath by combining speed metal riffs! Think along the lines of Annihilator and Agent Steel.
“Sunyata” despite its concept gives birth to condescending life. A contradictory conception that awakens what needs to be experienced by any individual exploring life. An assurgency for inner peace by realizing the path of nothingness, a path of pure black interjectory.
Originally written for http://www.metal-temple.com/
Athens, Greece has become one of the veritable hotbeds in the metal world, producing countless acts within all of the subgenres, especially black metal. Greece itself is known for producing black metal acts with an aptitude for dark atmospheres and a mild pompous flair, known by most as Hellenic black metal. Acrimonious is another Athenian black metal act to add to that list. With their second full length album, "Sunyata", Acrimonious performs a fairly sterile form of Hellenic black metal that is strongly and immensely influenced by the Scandinavian second wave.
To say that there was a lot going on during "Sunyata" would be a momentous understatement, as there is more happening than a high school physics Rube Goldberg competition. For the most part, Acrimonious blasts along with a mid-paced form of black metal, accompanied by swirling trem lines and a constant barrage of fast paced double bass footwork, fast fills and cyclic cymbal patterns. Aside from the ambient infused intro and outro tracks, the keyboard work is kept to a fair minimum, with only occasional accents here and there. The vocals range between a gruff anguished shout and hollow yet soaring chants that sound like ritualistic incantations. Where Acrimonious attempts to stand out is during sections where they slow the music down to a gritty, crawling pace with power chords and traditionally inspired leads floating over repetitious rollicking drums lines. These slower sections give a little breathing room, as the fast paced drums and guitar work are dense enough to require a lot of attention. While it is a welcome distraction, these slower sections don't flow in and out naturally, sounding very forced. The hollow chanting usually occurs during these slower sections and, while eerily fitting during most parts, does sound extremely forced and almost comical at times. Imagine some type of cartoon magician, like the Great Linguini, shouting, "Abraca-Bunny!" Given the mystical and occult lyrical themes, I highly doubt Acrimonious was trying to be funny, but it really is at times.
The entire album doesn't just blast away and occasionally shift into the ritualistic pieces. Tracks like the catchy "Vitalising the Red-Purple In Ishet-Zenuim" showcase some thrashy riffs alongside a rollicking double kick drum pattern. Even that track builds into the swirling trem guitars and blasting drums, but the catchy riffing really stands apart. The same with the Aura Noir inspired extrapolated riffing on "Black Kundalina" which is accentuated by slow and smooth scaled soloing. When the band toys with these tempo changes, especially the slower sections, it lends an air of experimentalism similar to many French acts of late. While Acrimonious does play around with these changes, they always seem a little less than confident when playing the slower sections.
Acrimonious, like most (better performed, at least) Hellenic black metal acts, plays a very dense brand of black metal which has a lot going on at once. The beauty about albums like this is that there's usually something new to pick out on each successive listen. Dark, Hellenic black metal with a sizable amount of second wave influence is what you'll find on "Sunyata". Acrimonious deliver an enjoyable album of Scandinavian influenced Hellenic black metal with some thrashy and ritualistic accoutrements. If Acrimonious can more confidently deliver their next album, then they could be a force to be reckoned with, but as it stands, this is an enjoyable, albeit fairly standard black metal album.
Written for The Metal Observer
The previous Acrimonious full-length, Purulence (2009) was not one I derived much enjoyment from, a fairly typical Scandinavian styled black metal disc which never really distinguished itself with strong composition or even just damn good riffs. Having said that, the Greeks have rallied, regrouped, and produced a far more poignant and compelling offering in Sunyata, perhaps not something as riveting as Hellenic masterworks like Triarchy of the Lost Lovers, Scarlet Evil Witching Black or the latest from countrymen Spectral Lore, but nonetheless a proficient, multi hued opus which should garner them some attention through the underground. It's not exactly a paradigm shift away from its predecessor, and it's not composed of wholly novel aesthetics, but there is an unshakable sense of mystical fulfillment here which stands up to numerous listens with little hint of decay.
For one, the ambient and black metal components really gelled through this release, the Greeks employing a clear dark classical influence, through both the standalone pieces like the intro "Nexus Aosoth" with its grim string swells, and the subtle and complementary synths and effects used to heighten the riffing surges. Even though the guitars aren't anything we haven't heard before among Norse and Swedish black metal royalty, the tone of the chords is so level and dense that they really stand out against the echoing, clamorous vocals and the polished if intense drumming. Bales of melodies and harmonies are constantly writhing above the flood of the rhythm guitar, and in truth there's a lot of intricate, acrobatic groundwork here which draws the ears far more than on the debut. The general quality of the riffs might not be the highest or most memorable you'll apt to encounter in this field, but there are at least a dozen standouts spaced out among the hour of music that create anticipatory highlights. Acrimonious is not yet a band one would turn to for astounding leads, but the contrast of rich dissonance, brighter melodies and loads of variation is intriguing enough.
Bass lines have that hint of progression and groove to them which lends itself well to the exotic ritual and introspective grandeur felt through worldly black metal, once again creating a subtext of progression and exploration rather than merely aping the rhythm guitars. The drums are tight and fill-heavy across all tempos, with a nice sheen of reverb that helps them cut through the glinting, harried guitar work; and the vocals are possessed of a solemn, soaring angst which breeds a lot more character than the standard rasp would have been able to achieve over these tunes. It's full-bodied, rapturous and works well with the choirs and other distractions the band uses to balance off the aggression of the core instruments. In short, there's a good deal happening throughout Sunyata, and thanks to the production values, you'll be able to discern it all. Much of the music is accessible, yet there's more to greet you with each successive spin, not to mention the strength of its passionate occult lyrics. Tracks like "The Hollow Wedjat" will prove a thrill for fans of mid to late-90s Emperor, and I'd very much recommend the album to those who enjoy the other, more ambitious Greek outfits like Spectral Lore or Acherontas, the latter of which several of the members were once involved in.
3 years after the release of their debut album Purulence, Greek black metal masters Acrimonious release the follow up entitled Sunyata. The album artwork got me wondering if this were the same Acrimonious that I encountered years back, with the psychedelic-feel that has been evoked being a far cry from the rather simplistic artwork of Purulence, rather uncharacteristic of the band’s releases.
Yet fitting to the album artwork, Sunyata kicks off with the ambient track Nexus Aosoth, quickly and easily putting the listener into a state of trance with the calming soundscape, despite the restlessness that underlies this apparent calmness. But all hell breaks loose soon enough as the track ends and Lykaria Hecate kicks in, with the band introducing their brand of dark, blasphemous black metal to the listener. The influences from such bands as Watain are immediately clear, not only through the songwriting and the song structure of most of the songs on the album, but also in the execution of the instruments. For instance, Cain’s vocals bears a pretty strong resemblance to the aforementioned’s Erik in the way he alternates between growling vocals and tortured shouts. The similarities to Watain is all the clearer in the way the riffing of Semjaza and Cain come together with Docre’s drums in bringing about a somewhat theatrical effect, not unlike what Watain has done on their latest opus Lawless Darkness.
The band has also displayed its growth musically compared to their previous outputs in the expansion of the amount of influences that they have put into the music. Apart from the usual old school Norwegian (or Norwegian-inspired) black metal sound such as Mayhem and Behexen, the band has also included a rather wide range of other influences, ranging from depressive black metal that at times remind one of such bands as Drowning the Light to occult rock and old school heavy metal moments, what with the usage of organs that are rather prevalent throughout the album, especially in the lead guitar playing style, and hence, the heavy comparison to Watain‘s Lawless Darkness and the heavy metal-infused black metal on the album. The ritualistic atmosphere is constantly reinforced with the inclusion of chants and hymn-singing on tracks like Adharma.
To top off the listening experience, there is that production on the album as well, not too polished yet not too raw. The powerful sound of the drums, especially the bass drums, ensure that the listener’s ear is constantly punished, further increasing the impact of Docre’s punishing drumming. Despite the long track lengths, with most tracks lasting almost 8 minutes, there is not a single boring moment, and the listener is left in a constantly enchanted state of mind from the start right through to the end of Sunyata.