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Let us take a moment and lament the dissolution of Akercocke. As great a band as I believe them to have been, it was a wise choice on their behalf so as not to tarnish their reputation by releasing junk. Choronzon, Lord of Hallucinations, is the title of their third full-length. A chick with a rather square ass is on the cover looking into a wrought iron mirror adorned with Luciferian and Satanic symbols. Her reflection is joined by a red demonic presence baring its piranha teeth. I'm gonna guess that would be Choronzon himself. By the way, Praise the Name of Satan...
...is the name of the first track on offer. "Gaze into it's depths..." And rather deep it is. Akercocke were built on a progressive demeanor and their choice to experiment with guitar effects, ethnic instruments and intriguing arrangements, is what sets them apart from other less notable acts. Those that berate the bands who toss in a few dashes of difference, suffer the loss. May they fucking choke and seizure on the blood I vomit down their ungrateful throats.
Each one of us has that particular or small handful of albums that we can sit through from beginning to end. Obviously that is a rare occurrence in this day and age with heaping loads of hackneyed horseshit being shat in our general direction. Atmosphere appears very important in creating that memorable experience. I believe that this is why Akercocke's albums have great appeal to me. Choronzon is a journey. A journey that starts with you running for your life from an unseen evil through a dark forest. You seek safety in a cold castle, shadowy figures danse macabre with the flame of torches dimly lighting the way. Stumbling down the spiral staircase, you fall into the dungeon as the malformed inhabitants close in for the kill... I'm a glutton for those 2-3 minute intermission tracks that more musically-inclined bands write. Most people toss these to the wayside, throwing up their hands and shouting "useless filler!" When they are done well, as Akercocke demonstrates, they add extra elements that make a for an exciting listen and here they add a ton of atmosphere.
Corpse-ripping, troglodyte-heavy riffing is performed with demonic speed; no need to worry about that. The amount of cocksucking that Mr. Gray receives is crazy. He's a good drummer. But listen carefully; he's a sneaky fuck. Sometimes, there's only percussion being played, no skins. Variation is the key to his performance, and the album as a whole. A few times he disintegrates to simple D-beat rhythms; other times he's all elbows and wrists. The guitars are so caked in reverb that discerning the bass is [as per usual] impossible but it adds heft to the overall sound. Vocal duties are performed solely by frontman Jason Mendonça. His range is tantamount to the music itself. High to low, screeched to guttural, and ghostly clean to boot. His vocal chords are truly possessed.
A decade ago this was an essential release that put both British extreme metal and Earache Records back on the map. Ten plus years later, it has annihilated the test of time. Buy or die.
This album is a masterpiece by the suit-clad English Satanists, Akercocke. It starts with Praise the Name of Satan, and it is a fitting tribute. Beginning with a spooky intro taken from the film, the Exorcist (I believe) it is effective and builds up to the beginning of the song. I think it might be unnecessarily long but you soon forget about it when the song begins with the speedy drum rolls. You may think it is pure black metal at this point but with a lot less distortion and better production qualities, but the album is a mix of black metal, death metal and other avant stuff. Eastern melodies are used quite a lot. The only downside to the album is that the songs don’t flow into each other (each song is a masterpiece on its own) and that there are too many instrumental passages in between songs.
The atmosphere created by the dissonant guitars, bass, drums, keyboard, acoustics and vocals as a whole is amazing. The drumming amazing is extremely fast and well put together, some of the fills are extremely fast and cymbals are used really well but not extensively. Of course there are blast beats. The vocals on the whole album vary between death growls, real dog vocals, black metal screams, bass male singing and mad-man shouting. All of which are done extremely well. The riffs are extremely well written, they are catchy as Satan's claws but evil sounding and aggressive, especially in songs such as Praise the Name of Satan and Leviathan. The guitar playing is super smooth, solos are well written with use of whammy bar, sweeping, everything really but always adding to the atmosphere. The bass is not always heard and doesn’t do too much but you can definitely feel it adding to the bottom end.
Praise the name of Satan and Leviathan are the two outstanding tracks. They both are long and contain so many different sections; it’s like a haunting journey. There isn’t much to say about them, but if you’re not convinced look up leviathan on YouTube, it isn’t the full version but you’ll understand what I mean. They are just great songs, atmosphere yet intensity and they always keep you on the edge of your seat. Leviathan has a great end section with whammy solos and some heavy riffing alternating. These two songs are quite clever in their use of dissonance, and they use subtle techniques to move the riffs along so that they don’t just sit there, small variations etc... (Triplets as well).
Enraptured by Evil, Scapegoat and Becoming the Adversary are some of the pure brutal songs on this album. No frills and eerie, dreamy or clever build-ups here, just pure riffs. The guitar tone is extremely heavy and the vocals are awesome on these songs. And of course there are tons of blast-beats.
There are also some softer songs on here, which are pretty dreamy all the way through. Valley of the Crucified is the first example of this, this majestic keyboard floats above the distorted guitars and the singing is well done. It seems to swell up as you get further until you here some mid tempo riffs and screams. And then of course the dissonant guitars. You actually hear the bass in this song doing some things. Bathyklopian Avatar is the next one, the drums are so groovy (for lack of a better word) here, and the riff sounds so cool over the top. It meanders a while between heavy riffs and growling and then back to the dreamy interludes. At about 2:00 I hear one of the coolest riffs but it isn’t brutal just hovers amidst the clouds of noise. The last one is Son of the Morning, which is a bit pointless and repetitive but not boring I think. It’s captivating and there’s a lot of bass, the lyrics are really interesting here and you can hear them well. There is a really almost-Taake-like riff later on.
And there are 4 filler songs with eerie noises and synthesizers.
Overall the albums lyrics are mostly about Satan, satanic philosophies and other occult things. When you can understand them I find myself straining to understand. The production has all been done at their own studio, but it is excellent. Great use of panning and they really knew how to balance the mix and get a great guitar tone. They use synthesizers or samples in some places very nicely.
This album is fantastic, brutal, haunting, epic, majestic, dreamy, crushing and in some places scary
By Emiel .
Whenever I am bored or sick of what’s going on in my daily life, I can always count on an Akercocke album to captivate my senses. The band’s third release, Choronzon, is actually the first album I heard from Akercocke, and was my introduction to their complex, enthralling style. I must admit, it took quite a while before I really “got” it. When I first turned this thing on, I know I enjoyed it, but it only barely connected with me on a superficial level. Most of the compositions passed me by subconsciously, and it was only a few months later that this excellent work’s significance hit me like a massive freight train.
So when you get right down to it, what exactly is offered here? Well, let’s see:
-dynamic heavy guitar work with chaotic riffs abound, remarkably sinister acoustic passages and too many well-composed solos to keep track of
-a mesmeric singing performance with very discrete style and tone
-exotic synths that only build atmosphere, add flavor to the music and aren’t overdone
-a skilled, vibrant bassist that you can actually hear
-varied drum sections ranging from violent blast-beats to distinct patterns with influences from jazz as well as numerous other genres
-vicious guttural death growls and blackened shrieks that offer the right dose of edginess and ferocity
Damn! And if that wasn’t impressive enough, the replay value offered here is amongst the highest I have encountered and is only really rivaled by Akercocke’s other albums. As with the traditional formula of this band, each song contains a seemingly endless procession of different compositions that require perhaps a dozen different listens just for one’s brain to be able to comprehend. Their overall structures are caked with mesmerizing diversity and creative technicality. They never get tiresome or predictable, and they always seem freshly ready for experience. Altogether, I think it’s quite clear that Choronzon really has about everything one could possibly want in a Metal album. Akercocke simply bring more to the table than almost any other. How they bring so many elements together into the melting pot, while making it work so fluently, is just extraordinary.
Now, I find it hard to imagine that there would actually be anything wrong here, but upon intense examination, I think there are a few minor errors that would hinder this album from a perfect score. Of course, they are the same tiny issues that have always bugged me such as too many ambient instrumentals/unneeded non-metal parts (the album’s two minute intro from some old film is a notable offender), and the blast sections from the drum kit sounding slightly buried in the mix of the production. But really, these slip-ups are like a richly beautiful young girl with fairly crooked teeth. The faults are indeed there, but the overall picture is just so exquisite and nearing perfection that these faults are more than overlookable, and pretty damn irrelevant most of the time.
All in all, I would recommend this album to just about anyone who’s interested in hearing just how far music can go beyond the verse-chorus-verse-chorus formula or any tedious clichés in general, as to me, Choronzon is a new way of experiencing music.
Akercocke full-lengths can be reviewed in three different stages. First, we have the beginning. This was where 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' splashed on to the scene with very little impact. It was the beginning, so mistakes were made and errors were at the heart. The second stage would be where Akercocke began to swing towards a crossover genre between black metal and death metal, perhaps with a hint of progressive in the middle. It was where two full-lengths marked the changes Akercocke were making to their sound and signified that, despite the problems of the debut, they were working on improving.
This stage was when the second album, 'The Goat of Mendes' and the third album, the one in question, 'Choronzon' come into play. The next stage is the one we're currently at. It's a stage which is typified by the transition in sound Akercocke have made. The crossover into two genres is now complete and a progressive style of play is being enforced more upon the audience. This stage would be where 'Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone', the forth album and 'Antichrist', the fifth album make their way to centre stage. This latter period of Akercocke's established career is probably where they have gained the majority of their fans and the most of their recognition. However, one will be focusing on the end of the second stage in 'Choronzon'.
As previously states, 'Choronzon' would mark the continuation of Akercocke's transformation. It seems to be a period where the band were trying new things and experimenting with their sound. Whilst 'Choronzon' and the previous album before it, 'The Goat of Mendes', aren't held in as high esteem as the two following them, they are accredited with the turning point of Akercocke's career. 'Choronzon' to me especially marks the era in the career of the band when clean vocals started to have more of a role within the music. Tracks like 'Leviathan' are a prime example of Akercocke's desire to move more towards a clean style than simply sticking with the lack of variation in vocals shown on the debut. The debut signified problems with the vocals, in my opinion. They were weak. The band had a severe lack of direction in almost every department, so changes needed to be made and thankfully, for both the band themselves and us, the fans, changes have been made. This very fact is an example of how Akercocke aren't afraid to experiment with sound. It may not work yet, but one day, with enough experimentation, their sound will come. 'Choronzon' was released at a time when Akercocke hadn't yet perfected what they were later going to go on and achieve, but it was a decent effort at the crossover genre.
Improvements have been made, as I said, in every department. The growled vocals are stronger, the clean vocals are immense and add a totally new dimension to Akercocke and the rasping black metal vocals are powerful. They would later go on to improve the vocals even more so, but at this stage, they were as good as they could have been. The vocals were still an issue on the second album, but by now, Akercocke were finding form and beginning to look as it they were hitting their stride. Experimentation is priority. In order to find out what suits you best, you have to experiment. Tracks like 'Leviathan' and 'Son Of The Morning' are good examples. Layered guitars are proving to be a hit, especially as the musicians behind Akercocke were beginning to grow in stature. Musicianship was good, but needed improving at this stage.
There are times when the level of experimentation is good. Riffs are solid, executed superbly and the solos are enjoyable alongside the dynamism of the percussion and vocals, but there are certain points when Akercocke slip back into old habits and produce a mediocre moment. Where good riffs may be picked out, the vocals dampen the urge to do so. Too many filler tracks has always been a problem with Akercocke too. They add nothing to the album, 'Choronzon'. Nor do they really add anything to any other album. The audience isn't in need of light relief because, even though the tempo does become quite fast at times, it's not that hard or heavy to withstand.
'Choronzon' also represents a time in Akercocke's career when keyboards are figuring more and more in their routine. The keyboards aren't developed as well as the riffs, or the percussion at this stage. Bass doesn't leave much to speak of. The musicians aren't playing in tangent at this stage of their careers. 'Choronzon' does make a habit of becoming a bit of a mess at times. The keyboards especially. Soundscapes deteriorate and songs draw on old habits by lacking direction. Heaviness is used as a substitute for precise play. Where simply slowing the tempo down would be wonders for Akercocke, they turn the heat up. This album, 'Choronzon', is a sign of improvement, but still showed me that the band needed to do some work still.
Akercocke - Chronozon
I got this CD when it first came out, and for about a month it really impressed me. It takes a lot for a band to be constantly on my playlist, and for a while there, I thought they were absolutely wonderful. Looking back at it now though, I was probably more amazed by the 'idea' of the band, than the music itself. Combining melody, brutality, electronic drums and various metal genre influences, I thought it was a "dream come true" combination.
First off, there are some interesting melody lines (the mellow riff in "Praise The Name of Satan" is exceptional) but unfortunately it just doesn't come across at being cohesive. It's as if the band tried 'too hard' to be emotive in their melodies and thus failed. Technically speaking, I cannot fault the band on their musicianship - however they are severely lacking in the creativity/originality department. The only thing that seperates this band from the others that have the same formula is quality in recording. There is no passion in the music created here, it seems to be formulated/predictable.
It would be nice to make a reference to their older work, and perhaps imply that they used to have passion or a streak of originality, but unfortunately not. If you mixed tracks from "The Rape of Nazarene" with this album it would be impossible to decipher which era each track was from.
Well, if nothing else, I suppose one can’t criticize Akercocke for attempting to blindly aping a single existing band. While rooting their sound in blasting, growling Satanic death metal (and black metal), they take a stab at freshening up a style of music often criticized for its sameness with strange synths, unusual guitar effects, a variety of vocals, various intros and odd interludes, and apparently influences from whatever other styles of music they could think of.
“Son of the Morning” (which is near the end of the album), for instance, actually starts out as unabashed synthpop, even down to the singing. Believe it or not, this is actually one of the better moments on the album, at least until some feedback-laden guitars start to intrude into the background and ruin it. Of course this band rarely does any one thing for more than a minute, so after that the song nearly stops cold, then goes into a simple black metal riff for transition, then kicks into a fast blast beast, with some sung (moaned?) vocals drifting over the chaos. I could have done without those... they remind me of some of the more poorly judged moments of avant-garde Norwegian bands. Eventually, some downtuned riffing and barfed vocals (this band’s “normal” vocal style) rush in to provide reinforcements. Oh, there are some screeches as well (I think I can make out “Lucifer” in one of the screams), a bit of goofy spoken word at a couple points, and on towards the end there’s some soloing over another black metal riff. All in all, a fairly typical example of what Akercocke are about.
To cite another random song, “Valley of the Crucified” starts out sounding like an unsuccessful underground doom band in the process of trying to broaden its audience. Here the sung melodies sound, to my ears, disturbingly like something in between Tool and Alice in Chains (that seems to be what pops out when bands try to sing “dark” but not sound goth or heavy metal)... it’s sort of ineffectual, or even outright irritating. Of course that, too, ends after about a minute and a half... over the course of the song we get some blastbeats, some rock riffing, some black metal riffing, there's a vaguely "Egyptian-sounding" melody near the end that probably obligates me to mention Nile... well, never mind the boring details.
My favorite song on the album is probably the closer, “Goddess Flesh”, which is a Dead Can Dance rip-off with synthesized strings and sung vocals (of course, I'd still rather just listen to Dead Can Dance...). The second track also sounds like Dead Can Dance, so I take it they’re fans.
It’s probably telling that this band is lethally uninteresting to me in the segments when they’re playing relatively straight death metal – most of the riffing is fairly unimaginative compared to the insane stuff that “normal” death metal bands like Immolation and Deeds of Flesh come up with, and frequently betrays an obvious commercial rock influence (see “Leviathan” for instance). That is to say, there's just not a whole lot worth getting excited about going on behind the surface-level variation. Aside from that, the songwriting, if you want to call it that, is frequently almost random, as I alluded to above. That's what passes for "creativity" in metal these days, evidently, but there's a line to be drawn between truly creative composition and arbitrary cut-and-paste jobs like this. This whole thing seems forged out of an ethic of affectation and gimmickry... and incidentally, the band’s entire “goats, naked chicks and formal wear” image outside the music seems to support that judgment. Instead of measured, intelligent, original composition we get a fifty-five minute rollercoaster ride of assorted faux-evil wackiness and theatrics… well, if that’s what you’re after, knock yourself out, I guess. For whatever it's worth, I suppose they at least have some panache, but nevertheless, this wears thin pretty quick. “Choronzon” is for entertainment purposes only. I would avoid.
That's all I can say after enjoying this masterpiece in its entirety. For a long time I've been avoiding most modern bands, because of the prevalence of this hyper-blast grind noisecore crap going on. I assumed Akercocke would be the same, but when I saw their bizarre image and that their lyrical content was Satanism (and highly intelligent Satanism at that), I figured that they at least deserve a listen.
The musical content is a total mixture of brutal death metal, black metal, electronic/ambient, and a few touches of classical and jazz (yes, jazz...listen to the drumming and strange time signatures).
After a pretty long intro, this album just explodes with "Praise the Name of Satan." Blasting drums, Immortal-esque guitar flurries, and seriously low death growls. All of a sudden, it changes to an acoustic passage, then back to the black metal-esque stuff, this time with some droning keyboards. There are some more chunky riffs, sounding like Suffocation or Malevolent creation towards them middle, then a totally doomy section. All of these elements work, and amazingly, this band is equally talented to play them effectively.
"Leviathan" is the most "accessable" song on here, mainly because of Jason Mendoca's clean delivery, which sounds like Peter Steele a bit. It's mainly slow and atmospheric, but the bass drums are going full blast the whole way. A few parts speed up, but don't sound out of place at all.
I could name drop about a million bands here, from Emperor, to Morbid Angel, to Atheist, but Akercocke's the one who can take influences from all these bands and throw them into a melting pot to cast one hell of an amazing album. Martin Bonsoir's production allows all of these elements to bubble to the surface and sound powerful, rather than favoring a strictly death or black metal production.
One weird thing I noticed about this is the speed of the drums does not always match up with the speed of the guitars. The drums will be blasting, and the guitars will only be playing a slow chord progression, or a simple clean riff. This is good, though, and make the album seem a lot darker. The atmospheric riffing is awesome as well, and I've rarely heard a band that can pull it off without weakening their heavy sound (Opeth, I'm talking about you!). They layer the guitars quite a bit, using strange distorted melodies here and there, which gives Akercocke yet another unique tool in their arsenel.
The biggest treat on here is David Gray's drumming. Fuck! This man is phenomenal! He can pull off a blast beat as well as Pete Sandoval, throw in fills that recall Dave Lombardo and work the subtlties like Billy Cobham (an excellent jazz player). The best example of this would have to be "Becoming the Adversary," which is mostly fast, but the quiet parts at towards the end have some really great drum work going on.
My only gripe with this is the ambient tracks that pop up between some of the real songs. They lack character, passing by almost silently. Sure, they link the sings pretty well, but I'd prefer more stuff going on. Remember Pestilence's Testimony of the Ancients? That was really good use of intros...
Normally I'm really hesitant to give a band this high of a mark, especially on the first album I've heard from them, and the fact that they are a new band, but Akercocke has really proved me wrong. I just hope people don't start calling them posers like Cradle of Filth, because Akercocke is a no-shit extreme metal band for the new millenium.
Akercoke are like a breath of fresh air in the world of black metal. There’s no corpse paint – instead the wear suits! But more importantly, they deliver a refreshingly new approach to black metal. Choronzon is a masterpiece. It delivers everything from a brutal death metal sound (with very deep, low, guttural vocals) to a clean singing style that will take you by surprise. It varies from extreme to mellow, from sinister to holy, and from chaos to harmony. There’s moments that sound a bit like Nile crossed with Brodequin, others that sound like Faith No More, and bits that sound generic of the black metal scene. But overall, it sounds like Akercocke, for they have created and mastered their own unique sound. Kind of like asking a Zen philosopher what an orange tastes like – to know what an orange tastes like, you must first taste an orange. To know what Akercocke sound like, you must listen to Akercoke!
The album takes a wile to get started, with a two-minute long instrumental track, followed by the first two minutes of “Praise The Name Of Satan” being more atmospheric filler. But when the “real” music starts – whoa! Extreme! Vocals – wow! I’d try to explain them, but there are no words to do justice. Then, the whole song changes, into a guitar solo, followed by more extreme vocals, this time down low. Then, another change into a slower bit. Followed by another change! Then, yes, another change, with spoken vocals. In fact, there’s no traditional structure to this song. No, Akercocke will not go verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus. In fact, “Praise The Name Of Satan”, has so many different riffs that it’s ridiculous. But at the same time, it all flows.
The next song, “Leviathan” starts up, and at first it sounds like a completely different band. Clean vocals, and all the extremity is gone. It continues this way for a while, and in typical fashion of the album, flows on from part to part, creating more and more riffs, switching between extreme and mellow. This song maintains it’s overall feel throughout, even though it constantly changes. A masterpiece in song writing.
“Enraptured By Evil” starts of extreme again, with some of the deepest and extreme death metal vocals I’ve ever heard. Again, the song constantly changes, yet maintains the overall feel throughout.
The title track, “Choronzon”, is a weird interlude instrumental song. Again, this is something brand new. I don’t know of any other album that has its title track as an interlude.
“Valley Of The Crucified” starts of sounding like something by Faith No More, but quickly progresses into a more generic black metal song, and eventually gets more extreme as it goes along.
“Bathylkopian Avatar” gets the award for the most extreme song on the album. Pure brutality. Off beat timing, dripping water effects, spoken word parts, electronic bits, the whole works.
“Scapegoat” starts off like the most extreme of death metal songs. Then it just keeps going along the path of extremity. Yet another sound for the band, moving away from black metal, again with some spoken word parts. Brutal, extreme, awesome.
“Son Of The Morning” breaks the mould again. It starts almost like any number of top 40 songs from the 1980’s, with clean singing, a kind of disco-like drumbeat, and keyboards. The clean vocals continue as the drums speed up, giving a kind of power metal cross death metal sound, until the whole thing turns into a death metal song. The familiar spoken voice comes back, and then it kicks back to some death metal. Diverse, original, Akercocke.
“Becoming The Adversary” follows the structure of the other songs on the album, in that it has no definable structure. Another of the more extreme songs, of course with its less extreme parts.
Overall, this is an amazing album. Truly unique, devoid of structure, and utterly amazing. The song writing is outstanding. Well-done Akercocke. Well-done indeed!
There I was after having heard 'The Goat Of Mendes', being for the most part a fast-paced deathly-black affair of good quality, thinking that like most bands Akercocke might just bring out 'The Goat Of Mendes Part Two'.
How wrong could I be?
I think the thing I like best about the album is that overall, in comparison to the previous two Akercocke albums, this is a far more lucid yet precise album. Mixing in far more "non-metal" influences & instruments than on previous songs, there is a far more diverse and structured feeling to this album.
Yes there are songs which are basically more "melodic" than previously, but this use of not melody per se but slower more focused songwriting only serves to heighten the impact of the faster songs as well as highlighting the intricacy with which Akercocke have written this album.
Earache chose to promote the album with perhaps the two most melodic/ lucid songs on 'Choronzon', namely 'Son Of The Morning' and 'Leviathan'. These songs, to me at least, strike as an almost eclectic mixture of vintage Type O Negative merged with some of the best sounds death metal has to offer. Definately the most immediately engaging tracks on the album, though if you listen to the other tracks enough of the way through, you'll find elements you'll like in nearly every song.
No wonder then that they recently won the Critics Poll in Terrorizer magazine for Best Album of 2003, for this is an album that will go some way as to breaking down the already blurred lines between not just metal genres but music in general.