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A minimal, more industrial and restrained album - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, May 10th, 2010

Compared to previous albums of theirs that I've heard, this 2010 release by Akitsa is a more sober and darker work. The emphasis on delivering a message is obvious here with the members restricting their florid style of vocalisations to partly singing, partly declaiming the lyrics on eight of the ten tracks on offer, to the extent that many songs are not much more than poetry recitations over a minimal soundtrack. And minimal the music certainly is - it's hardly more than a raging background of pin-prick guitar noise with a savagely raw edge. Those MA folks who know the French language very well have a clear advantage over everybody else but the album does come with French language lyrics so if you have a French / English dictionary, you can still work out what the Akitsa men all worked up: the corruption and stagnation of modern society and its effect on the human psyche, against which Akitsa see their role as drumming up awareness, defiance, resistance and overthrow.

Two tracks without lyrics, "Crematorium" and the title track "Au crepuscule de l'esperance" ("At the twilight of hope"), are typical examples of the kind of extreme minimalist structures that feature - they are basically repeating noise guitar texture patterns. They could have had lyrics or a melody added to them for all I know but perhaps leaving them as they are and giving them provocative titles like "Crematorium" will force listeners to use their own imaginations as to what the musicians had in mind while listening to these very harsh, almost martial tracks. Why an intro track to an album should be called "Crematorium" is meat for thought alone. The rhythms are mechanical in their unrelenting monotony and give the tracks a strong industrial as well as raw metal feel.

Elsewhere the songs deliver their messages with a no-frills approach. Usually there'll be just a guitar solo melody or reiteration of the main riffs near the end of a track, that's about all the extra decoration Akitsa feel is necessary. Anyone looking for musical "progress" won't find any obvious progress though the music tends to sound less repetitive and the riffs have a kind of melting, almost abstract quality due to the excessive buzz and the deliberately lo-fi quality of the sound. Vocals are usually more shouty than screechy but the musicians will still let rip with shrill fiery throaty screams on "Cercueil national" and "Vers la mort" - it's just screaming with a purpose now. Have Akitsa gone PC in their own way? No, they haven't - they still belt out garage with a groove in one song "Antithese" and another song "Loyaute" has a heavy punk metal sound with a slow-burning rock'n'roll rhythm.

Last track "La Voix Brutale" is an interesting one in that it features a poem of the same title by early twentieth century French-Canadian poet Albert Lozeau, some of whose work has also been referenced by Akitsa's black metal compatriots Forteresse. From what I have been able to find out about Lozeau, he lived a short life and was mostly bedridden due to various illnesses. His poetry is said to reflect the inner yearnings and spirituality of the human soul under very restrictive conditions; he became deeply patriotic in his later years, believing that literature should serve the French-Canadian cause and culture. An English translation of this poem - you can do a Google search for the poem and get Google to translate it into English - reveals Lozeau's contempt for a life lived totally in the material world with sensual gratification as the only goal. The human psyche is reduced to an animal existence and prostitutes itself for money, security and comfort. This chimes in well with the general theme of the album. The song itself emphasises the lyrics at the expense of the music (which features a very amusing run-down coda) so it's quite slow and the vocal delivery is clear if very croaky.

While structurally the songs stick to the same minimal formula and are lacking in melodic complexity and technical polish, I don't find them at all boring or monotonous. The repetition sticks out much less than on previous Akitsa albums and the music seems smoother and to flow a lot more even though the band now has a regular drummer. The major emphasis is on the lyrics and singing, and on the sound of the music. Akitsa seem determined to maintain a primitive and deliberately naive way of writing, playing and recording their songs. The paradox is that there is also an industrial edge to many songs partly because of the way they are structured with strong buzzy and filthy sound and production, and unvarying percussion rhythms. The band makes no concessions for listener preferences on this album so it's not likely to gain any new fans beyond those already familiar with the band's style