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Great album - 93%

GeorgeMFZB852, March 28th, 2015

Ever since Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler saw a mysterious figure at the foot of his bed and inspired the lyrics for the opening track on their 1970 debut, horror has been a defining trait of the metal genre. Whether it's Slipknot adorning creepy masks, Venom pretending to be devout Satanists or Rob Zombie...well, using the name Zombie. Metal and horror, or metal and the devil, have always gone hand-in-hand.

Very few of the so named "horror-metal" bands are genuinely scary, however. While the dark imagery and controversial lyrical themes can help stage presence live or the atmosphere on a recorded piece, you very rarely get actual chills the way you might from a good horror film. If one band is to change this, however, it's Acherontas.

From the eerie intro on 'Fires Of Prometheus', which sounds almost like it should be on a horror game's menu screen, to the 7 minute 47 seconds long 'Shaman And The Waning Moon' that holds no actual music, Ma-Ion (Formulas Of Reptilian Unification) is a heavily occult-themed black metal album with an absolutely mental degree of scope.

When the black metal is present, it's good. Brilliant, in fact. The deep guttural growls, ferocious guitars and heavy pounding drums found on 'Lunar Transcendence & The Secret Kiss Of Nut' are undeniable. Whilst 'Therionic Transformation' is a goose-bump conjuring epic that's basically an explosion of everything heavy and dark. However, at times, you'll be waiting a while for the genuine music.

You'll find tribal drum beats over eerie tones on the intro to 'The Awakening Of Astral Orphic Mysteries - Behind The Eyes Of Irida' , creepy chanting and singing on 'Fires Of Prometheus' and Australian didgeridoo sounding groans on 'Permutation In The Aetheric Void (Ma-Ion Sacred Seal)'. These all effectively add to the atmosphere, making the heavy moments even more overwhelming, but that's if you can be bothered to stick with it.

Casual listeners may lose interest, but those that stick with Acherontas have found a gem from the deepest of metal's underground. You'll have no idea what they're singing about unless you're an occult scholar, you'll have no idea why the peculiar and seemingly random sounds are there and you'll have absolutely no clue why the lengthy sinister tones go on so long at times, but, for some reason, you won't be able to knock it. The best things in life aren't easy, they take work, and if you let this album work at drawing you in, it will, in a refreshing and exhilarating way.

originally posted on

Ave Medusa - 85%

autothrall, February 27th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, World Terror Committee (Limited special edition)

Hellenic black metallers Acherontas have yet to waste my time with any of their full-length records, yet I'd be hesitant to claim that they'd fully knocked one out of the park. Until now. Efforts like Theosis and Amenti flirted with greatness, but Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) immerses us within a fully realized, matured sound that offers paeans to both the gnarled, grisly black metal tradition and the occult atmospherics that have long lingered in the eaves of celestial darkness that populate their discs. To wit, it's not a massive stylistic departure, rather just a refinement of those present contrasts in the earlier material, but a damn good one. If it seemed like there was this ceaseless tirade of quality amidst the Greek scene in 2014, with killer sophomore albums by newish bands like Thy Darkened Shade, Hail Spirit Noir and also a career effort from the legendary Varathron, then this quintet of extremely seasoned musicians has seen fit to 'extend the reign', perhaps not on that same level of dominance, but extremely close...

The two deciding factors on why I enjoyed this more than their other albums are just how far they've come along with the ambient components and frisky leadwork, the former imbued with all manner of raw percussion, vaporous swells and pads, brooding chants, articles of ethnic antiquity. The solos in tunes like the intro "Fires of Prometheus" are just amazing, slicing and frivolous exhibitions of chaos that remind me of death metal cult classics like that first Nocturnus album, only embedded within chord progressions that are purely black metal circa older Bathory, Mayhem, Marduk, etc. There is a constant, unhinged feeling throughout the record due to the abusive charisma of vocalist Acherontas V. Priest, whose garbles and grumbles function both when they're straightforward and ugly, and also bouncing off the vaulted ceilings of the recording thanks to some tasteful reverb. Many of his lines might fall within the same wheelhouse of structure and tonality, but I found it nearly impossible to predict what syllables he was going to spit in any succession and thus the album, while possessing a solid rhythmic backbone, feels fresh and sporadic (not unlike that latest Varathron).

Riff phrases are nearly as psychotic, shifting between banks of turgid, bleak chords and flightier ascensions into tremolo pickings to accompany the blasts. Percussion is everywhere on this disc, from thundering toms to hissing cymbals and it all contributes to a sense of this black vortex which does a service to the excellent, alluring cover art. Bass lines swerve and cavort among the sickly coupling of the beats and guitars. But what's better, once the band segues into this completely dusky, ethnic piece like "Convolut-ion, Manifestat-ion, Secret-ion, Karma-Iravatl the Thunders Emerged" it really fits into the patchwork nature of the ritualistic concepts. I was ensnared by every single dark ambient distraction on the entire effort...even when they're placed back to back like "Permutations in the Aetheric Void" and "Shaman and the Waning Moon". Fortunately they'll often toss of a few of the grimier black metal rasps or whispers in among these to keep the experience coherent.

Now, I'll be honest, I haven't the fucking clue what the band is on about most of the time...the '-ion' suffix gimmick is an interesting one that had my head reeling. I am just not ancient enough. I know it scares me, and I would not want to be abducted by these guys while I was on a summer vacation in Crete or Mykonos or somewhere. Is this entire album just one massive love letter to the Gorgons? A serenade for the serpentine embodiment of the Medusa? It certainly turned me to stone, no easy feat when you consider that with 70 minutes of material this could very easily have gone off the rails. Oh, it does, it does so with pride, all the while plummeting with a cackling joy into the Underworld it longs for. At times calming, at times frenzied, a night storm sweeping across the Aegean, the best of Acherontas yet.