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Stuck In Second Gear. - 75%

Perplexed_Sjel, February 19th, 2008

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.