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Satan is displeased - 27%

Cheeses_Priced, August 31st, 2004

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.