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Akercocke > Rape of the Bastard Nazarene > Reviews
Akercocke - Rape of the Bastard Nazarene

Beautiful Bastard Noise - 87%

Hellbent, March 20th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Peaceville Records (Digipak, Reissue)

It’s difficult to overstate the impact that Akercocke made when they broke out of London’s underground extreme metal scene at the tail end of the 1990s. Although the UK had played a huge role firstly in the genesis of metal itself via Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and Venom’s unholy racket had been one of the catalysts for the development of thrash and black metal in the early 1980s, outside of a fertile grind and death-doom scenes centred around Napalm Death, Carcass and Paradise Lost, the UK had been little more than a bit-part player in the global explosion of black metal and death metal emanating from the Scandinavian and American hotbeds. Cradle Of Filth, despite the polarising nature of their aesthetic, were the only British black metal band at that point that had successfully transcended their local scene, and despite the best efforts of a congested and incestuous London community, there were few bands that seemed especially likely to replicate Cradle Of Filth’s success, let alone challenge the best that Norway, Sweden or even the Netherlands had to offer at that time. So when Akercocke emerged, seemingly fully-formed, complete with striking sartorial choices and a high concept vision together with the ability to realise it, it was a stunning bolt from the blue, and they were almost immediately transformed into one of extreme metal’s most intriguing and forward-thinking bands. Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene is at once a statement of the band’s overt and seductively blasphemous Satanism, and a slightly (but only slightly) rough and ready template for a sound that they would perfect over a sequence of outstanding albums that would end only with their initial dissolution in 2012.

It would be a mistake to dismiss Akercocke’s first album on the basis that it is not yet the perfect realisation of their sound, however. While they would go on to make more impressive albums, their debut transcends its occasionally under-powered production with a succession of songs virtually over-flowing with enthralling ideas and impressive musicianship. Akercocke also succeed because, like many of metal’s most iconic bands (and perhaps contrary to the protestations of some fans who maintain that the music is the only thing that counts), they offer more than simply excellent music. First comes the name, and linked to this, the thematic conceit of their first album. In a scene stuffed to bursting with death metal bands referencing some kind of unpleasant bodily mutilation, and Tolkien and Norse mythology-obsessed black metal bands, the mysterious and esoteric name of Akercocke, not unlike their British contemporaries Anaal Nathrakh, was impossible to forget once heard. This moniker gains an additional layer of interest when one learns that the name was taken from Robert Nye’s re-telling of the Faust mythos, specifically a capuchin monkey given to Faust through Satan himself. It also lends some depth to the band’s avowed Satanism, something far beyond the cartoonish facade of the many bands that have invoked the devil’s name and image through the years purely (and frequently successfully) to shock. Their spiritual beliefs bring a palpable authenticity to their music, and serve to enhance the genuinely disquieting atmosphere imparted by the songs themselves, and also the black mass-style interludes and invocations that are often utilised to bridge one song to another. Finally, the band’s aesthetic, encompassing their instantly recognisable monochrome artwork (generally featuring sexual images of women in various states of undress) as well as their be-suited onstage presence, demonstrates both a seriousness of intent and the creation of a totally immersive and coherent universe in which the band operate, and which the listener is able to completely lose themselves in.

Of course, all of this has function in complement to the music itself – if the songs failed to match the impressiveness of the concept, Akercocke would have been as dead in the water as any other style over substance band. Fortunately, this is resolutely not the case with Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene, and therefore all of the peripheral elements serve only to strengthen the whole edifice, an edifice that would be further reinforced by the albums that followed. As soon as ‘Hell’, the first track proper kicks in, following a suitably eerie chanted declaration which acts to prepare the listener for the upcoming assault, it is immediately clear that something startling and unprecedented is taking place. The band could so easily have launched into one of the many ripping riffs that populate the album, but instead prioritise atmosphere, by choosing to delay gratification, ‘Hell’ commencing with seething, demonic discordance, and almost whispered vocals. Once the crunching guitars do finally surge into action, the song continues through a whirlwind of ferocious tremolo riffing, complex tempo changes and intriguing rhythmic ideas. ‘Hell’ represents the infernal genesis of a riffing style that is highly individual and instantly recognisable. More often than not, Akercocke are ostensibly playing a slightly avant-garde version of death metal. The most aggressive tracks on this record generally combine snatches of single string tremolo blasts with lengthy passages of spidery, technical melodies, the twin guitars frequently alternating between unison sections, and segments in which they break into split harmonies that generally eschew classic metal intervals for something considerably more evil-sounding. The nearest comparison would be early Morbid Angel, or perhaps Nile at their most direct, although it should be noted that the trace elements of thrash that are so apparent on Altars Of Madness are almost entirely absent from Akercocke’s sound. What makes Akercocke so unique though, is the fact that they are clearly not just a death metal band. Philosophically, their Satanism places them much closer to orthodox black metal, and although musically the band share little in common with mid-90s Norsecore, the way in which they are able to imbue their music with a sense of awe and majesty allows them, in combination with a subtle use of synths, to straddle the death metal / black metal divide with skill. Finally, the progressive touches which will become significantly more pronounced as their discography is expanded is of a piece with a black metal scene that, as the 20th century drew to a close, was introducing a plethora of different sounds to the black metal template, resulting in the dramatic transformation of previously orthodox bands such as Enslaved, Dodheimsgard and Thorns into wildly progressive musical explorers.

As the album progresses, it’s clear that although all elements of the band’s sound may not be fully-realised in the way that they will be on The Goat Of Mendes, they are all discernible to varying degrees. When they all coalesce, as they do on early career highlight ‘Nadja’, or the monumental ‘Justine’, the results are astounding. ‘Nadja’ seamlessly welds a memorable Morbid Angel meets Beherit tremolo riff to some slick and dextrous lead playing, and overlays the whole with some truly vicious vocals. Another feature of the Akercocke sound is the clever use of contrasting vocal styles, which frequently overlap to create a disorienting feel, and ‘Nadja’ leans heavily on high-pitched screamed vocals to wonderfully unsettling effect. The complexity of the rhythmic interplay between David Gray’s outstanding drumming and the guitars, and the harmonic counterpoints that the guitars create completely belies the band’s naivety as a recording act, and frankly, the level of compositional sophistication displayed here put Akercocke at the forefront of a small number of death metal bands forging new paths for the genre in 1999. ‘Justine’ demonstrates a similar melodic intricacy, and the way in which this spellbinding track evolves from an introductory section in which the band give the impression that they are rising, undead, from eldritch depths, through a subtle electro section, Gray’s patterns mimicking the breakbeats of drum ‘n’ bass, before finally climaxing in an extended progressive death metal instrumental section is utterly unique. The hint of electronics on this track is a thread that runs through the album as a whole, and a tantalising glimpse of a set of influences that run rather deeper than the obvious metallic touchpoints. This thread is audible through the ghostly interlude ‘The Goat’, and ambient outro ‘The Blood’ and although the band use these sounds cautiously on Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene, they are well-integrated enough into the Akercocke sound that they do not feel jarring or incongruous.

In fact, nothing on this ambitious debut feels out of place, even if it does not all quite hit the heights of ‘Nadja’ and ‘Justine’. In ‘Zuleika’, Akercocke give us the only track on the album that feels like a demo-level recording. The somewhat stock riffs fail to take flight and inspire in the way that they do elsewhere, and overall the song lacks the distinct personality that ordinarily makes the band’s music so memorable. Despite this though, the slightly unclassifiable blackened death metal is reminiscent of such legendary oddities as Mystifier and Root, and thus helpfully serves to connect Akercocke with the more obscure reaches of the extreme metal underground, burnishing their metal credentials, and again displays a wide-range of less obvious influences. Additionally, although the strength of the material renders it a trivial problem, the production is inconsistent at best. While at no point is it poor enough to prevent the band’s many ideas from connecting with the listener, it would be of minimal surprise to discover that Gray’s drum parts were the recorded sound of him pounding wet cardboard, and although the drum patterns themselves are outstanding, they don’t quite drive the band forward with the taut energy that the songs deserve.

These criticisms are minor complaints though, which do little to diminish the enjoyment of a supremely confident debut. Akercocke play with the kind of dismissive arrogance that one should expect from devoted Satanists, and fortunately the quality of the material matches the intent of the delivery. Even in the early stages of their career, the band have a firm grasp on the art of channelling their vision into hook-laden songwriting, while keeping things interesting via continual tempo shifts, and subtle rhythmic changes. Their riffs and melodies are often breathtakingly intricate, but although the band impress with their technical proficiency, they also clearly recognise the value of dropping into a ferocious d-beat tremolo riff to allow the listener to bang as well as scratch their head; combining beauty with brutality to thrilling effect. In their more experimental moments, they are also able to generate captivating metal from less obvious ingredients. The droning, almost ritualistic discordance of ‘Marguerite & Gretchen’ sounds familiar now, in a modern black metal scene populated by the likes of The Ruins Of Beverast and Schammasch, but in 1999 this was hugely innovative and unconventional, and it has barely dated in the years that have followed, much like the vast majority of a masterful album. Akercocke would go on to make better records, but Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene retains the magick that it radiated on its release, and remains a landmark in extreme metal, as well as the first step in an endlessly impressive career.

First published here:

Good Debut - 87%

Dead By Dawn 15, February 4th, 2013

Akercocke: the ultimate fusion of black and death metal with progressive influences. Here we have their debut full length album Rape of the Bastard Nazarene and right away with the name we can already tell how these guys feel about religion (Christianity mostly for that matter).

Although this is only their debut the band already displays their amazing musicianship in a well planned out manner. Songs like Hell and NaDJa are both thrash songs that show their backbones in the death and black metal genres. While my personal favorite song on the album is the fusion track Marguerite and Gretchen which effectively fuses the black and death metal sounds with an almost alternative metal tendency thrown in and finishing off with a string section with females singing over it. Jason Mendonca's clean vocals on this track are extremely exceptional and defnitely pave the way for the band's future.

This leads us to the musicianship in the members' perspective. As said before Jason's clean vocals are great, but his growls and shrieks are also outstanding for the simple fact that this is Akercocke's first album and although he sang in the pre-Akercocke band Salem Orchid this was his first time contributing lead vocals on a full length and I must say his vocals are quite impressive. Now his guitar playing along with Paul Scanlan is also something that should be addressed on a positive note, although their guitar playing would become much more proficient and tight over the years, let there be no mistake the playing displayed hear is not sloppy, just not as refined as what would come in the future. Peter Theobalds bass playing is also impressive where his bass is actually audible in the mix and although at most points he is just following the drums and guitars there are some points when he shines (see Margerite and Gretchen). But the best performance of the album (tied with Jason's vocals) is David Gray on the drum kit. Wow this guy is one hell of a drummer, in extreme metal there are few drummers that pass Mr. Gray and even on the debut album he displays excellent musicianship and definitely sets a clear picture for what the future holds.

Concluding this review I will say that although it's not as memorable as say The Goat of Mendes, or Words that Go Unspoken, Deeds that Go Undone this album is still a great listen. However after this the band would refine their sound and become increasingly better on what I perceive as their masterpiece which is The Goat of Mendes.

Blapshemic Metal Onslaught - 87%

Akerfeldt_Fanboi, January 10th, 2009

In my ever-going quest to review all of Akercocke's albums, I have deigned to go chronologically (in spite of my ill-placed Antichrist review).

Well, this slab of black/death is begun with the declaration of Satan, and the defecation that is the Christian faith "Declaration". A very short track that is nothing more than two women speaking, which leads into the first real track "Hell".

Now, I'm not going to review this track by track as that gets to me, but I will say everything in "Hell" is what you should expect from the rest of this album, with electronica and ambience added as well.

To effectively begin, we have the guitars on the album. Played by the (now) infamous Jason Mendonca and Paul Scanlan, they provide the backbone for the album and the metal edge is mostly retained through their heavy down tuning and massive distortions. The guitars show off sides of the black and death metal spectrums widely enough to provide an experience that will please fans of both genres.

Switching between frantic chugging (not in the sense that comes to mind, scene kids) and dissonant tremolo picking and chording, we have somewhat of a jewel: true blackened death metal guitarwork. The guitars on this album are just absolutely vicious in their cutting ways.

Now, the bass. Normally, I'd include this in the electric guitar section but Mr. Theobalds is such an exceedingly excellent bassist, it is only too necessary. Yes, he does play plenty of root notes, and yes he does use a pick. The thing that lets him shine is the production, his tone, and his unique playing style. Playing counterpoint melodies in the tremolo picked sections, and flowwing the chords with the dissonany chording, he does justice to this album without making it sounded like he was trying too hard.

David Gray. What more should I have to say? Oh, right. Well, the man is an absolute beast on the drums. Showing his brother's interests in jazz and funk mixed with his intense leanings in the extreme metal scenes, this album has drumming that any drummer can easily appreciate. Oh, and he writes about 40% of the songs, so he deserves a rather large amount of praise for that as well.

Speaking of the songwriting...that is the only real problem. While I am a large fan of straight-ahead, balls first black/death metal, when I listen to Akercocke I look for something a bit...more. While this album is the only one to feature extensive femal vocals, it is also the Akercocke album with the least amount of Jason's amazing clean vocal work. His growls and screeches are implemented here very frequently, but the fifth track "Marguerite & Gretchen" is the only album to really feature any extensive use of clean vocals.

The production as well, is a bit lacking. Not in the sense that it's "bad" or anything, but it is just...dull. Well, I got side tracked.

I was talking about songwriting, right? Well, the guys were in a semi-post pubescent state and just wanted to thrash for Satan, which I understand, but they did a bit...wrong. They tried to fuse their progressive, almost avant-garde elements of their later work with this primitive blackened death metal which doesn't work on one's first try.

They attempted and did rather well, but they didn't do what was expected after Salem Orchid's finesse and if you bought Akercocke's albums starting with Words or Choronzon, this may seem like a somewhat immature release, from a band that would have great expectations of.

So, this is for hardcore Akercocke fans and primitive black metal, in other words all you thrashers on this site better get the damned thing.

An excellent abum worsened by immature Satanism and a desire to produce heavy and evil music.

A fine beginning - 86%

Against_The_Masses, October 29th, 2008

The first release from these marvelous Brits is actually their least consistent effort, which really is something of a rarity. Too many bands to name start off with an amazing debut, and then some way or another, they steadily plummet into an abyss of mediocrity. However, Akercocke did what so few others could ever accomplish, by starting off at their weakest level, and almost immediately afterward, they began a chain-reaction of firing out excellent cutting-edge albums at full-force. This is really how a band’s career should successfully go, as it proves that the artist has a real dose of serious creativity to offer, than opposed to randomly winging a good album and pathetically struggling to match its quality afterward. Of course, even at the band’s least developed stage, they are still an absolute titanic force to be reckoned with.

The primary sound of “Rape of the Bastard Nazarene” is very dark, and sinister blackened death metal, and this album in general gives off a chilling atmosphere of demonic orgies and devil worship. Jason’s extreme growls and shrieks are particularly fierce here, and his singing is just as enticing as it has always been. The other band mates perform powerfully as well, especially Peter who’s efficient, dynamic bass playing is highly noticeable. My favorite track offered on this release though would have to be the opener “Hell”, which is a vicious, demonic piece of death metal, and it perfectly showcases the band’s ability towards this style with neck-breaking riffage, ferociously guttural vocals, and hellish chants.

The overall style represented here is relatively the same as the band’s other works, just not quite as progressive or varied, with the exception of the use of female vocals, which is something the band completely abandoned soon after. The two young ladies on here, Tanya Kemp and Nicola Warwick, definitely play their parts well, and they help give the album an extra “oomph” of diversity and ritualistic edginess. A thorough illustration of their talent would be on one of the major highlights of the album, a Satanic ballad of sorts called “Marguerite and Gretchen”. Here, their soothing lustful voices carry the atmosphere of the piece brilliantly.

Akercocke’s albums tend to have few (if any) flaws to be found at all, but on here they are a present enough to bring the score down to the eighties. Unsurprisingly, they are mainly the same ones the band has always had, just to a bigger degree. The first is the obvious lack of full-on music here as there are too many instrumental pieces, which is especially disgruntling when you consider that this clocks at less than forty minutes, and the second is that David’s drumming, which includes his mid-paced sections and his hellish blasts, did not come out quite as effectively pummeling as they could have in the mix. The only flaw that is not apparent at all on any of Akercocke’s other releases, is that a number of the solos ring out in a rather flat tone, and that is pretty much it, overall.

To conclude everything, this debut is without a doubt a powerful, memorable release. I really think it would have scored into the nineties if there was more actual METAL on here, as it really shouldn’t be closely measured to their other masterful albums with it having such a diminutive level of content. It is also important to mention that this is not a good starting place for one new to this band. Look into the rest of Akercocke’s mesmerizing discography first before tracking this one down.

Rejecting All That Lives In God's Name. - 50%

Perplexed_Sjel, February 18th, 2008

I remember the day I discovered Akercocke. It was just before my 16th birthday while I was searching for extreme metal music in a record store in London. At the time I was quite impressionable and the obscure reputation surrounding black metal was appealing to me. The metal scene in general was new to me so I decided to buy on impulse. When it came down to it, I was to decide between this album, 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' and 'Transilvanian Hunger' by Darkthrone. I actually opted to purchase the Darkthrone album because of the mystique surrounding the album art. It was cold and distant, which is precisely how I felt for the majority of my teenage years, therefore it appealed to my nature more so than this particular record. However, a mere year later I came across this album again, I do believe in the same store, so I picked it up. My knowledge for black metal had grown and my thirst for new material needed to be quenched.

'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' didn't quite live up to my expectations. At the time, it was influential, but that was probably due to my lack of knowledge of the underground. I knew more about the Scandinavian scene than I did any other, as most people tend to at first, but I wanted to scour the British scene for talent. As I say, 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' has failed to stand the test of time. It's incredibly primitive and doesn't appear to understand the direction it's taking. Akercocke would later become a highly influential band themselves. Avant-gardé would become an apt term when seeking to describe Akercocke's brand of music. 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' isn't as multi-dimensional as any of the recordings that came after, but this is a fact that one cannot let sway their opinion too much as you have to remember clearly that this IS the first record Akercocke made. If anything, to me, 'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' is symbolic of the strides Akercocke have made since the release of this record. It's an indication of how truly talented this bunch of musicians are.

'Rape of the Bastard Nazarene' seems to be a fairly mixed bag. We have a few hidden delights amongst a fairly rigid black metal rendition. Where tracks such as 'Hell' and 'Marguerite & Gretchen' stand out as clear forerunners, the rest lag behind. There doesn't seem to be a lot of direction, as I stated earlier. Akercocke seem to be finding their feet still and this album is a clear indication of that. It's primitive, but not in terms of production as that is quite clear, thankfully. Due to the clear production, one can fully focus on the immediate affect of the instruments. From the primitive vocals, to the pressing percussion. As time goes on, the audience, when looking over Akercocke's discography, can clearly see this is the starting point.

There isn't much in the way of innovation just yet. It's a black metal album, whereas latter albums begin to fuse black with death and add a progressive style to it. If we stand this album alongside the others, it doesn't match the standard. The vocals aren't up to carrying the band. The use of clean vocals would later be a saviour of many of the latter albums. Soundscapes are generally poor. There is a lot of aggression, but it's not used very well. As I reiterate, there is simply no direction. The vocals and the guitars offer a lot in the way of unadulterated aggression, but if it's not harnessed accordingly, what use is it? Not much, really. Again, this is Akercocke's most negative outing. Stick around though as Akercocke's adventure-driven nature comes into play far more often on later albums and the sheer dynamism of their music takes hold of audiences unlike this effort.

Realities Unfold Betwixt a Rich Fruit of Locusts - 60%

Frankingsteins, December 24th, 2007

This debut release from the eternally besuited, well-groomed and well-mannered London gents who are nevertheless clearly going to Hell (if they really do believe all this stuff), fails to shake off the sense of being a slightly overlong demo tape. By slightly I mean it comes in at a still meagre thirty-five minutes rather than twenty-five, and by demo I mean unpolished, raw-sounding compositions connected by worthless interludes in a deceptive attempt to bulk out the track-list to something approaching ten. The good news is that the dingy world of black metal is perfectly suited to just this type of raw performance, many bands bizarrely sounding far more palatable when stripped down to a thin, fuzzy sound than when subjected to the infernal mechanisms of a high-budget studio, and Akercocke's violent, mournful and disturbed sound doesn't suffer one bit from this primitive, tomb-like atmosphere, though it also fails to use it to any real advantage in evoking eeriness.

The low production values will likely ward off cautious listeners - you know, the ones who haven't already been scared away by the obscenity and suggestiveness of the title and artwork or the rude word skilfully secreted inside the band name - but the musicians are fortunately on top form, their skill being audible and wholly enjoyable despite a lack of extra force in the mix. Both guitars can be distinctly heard, and play off against each other nicely on occasion, handled by Paul Scanlan and Jason Mendonça, who also provides an impressive range of vocals from the standard low grunt of brutal death metal (Cannibal Corpse, Mortician) to very effective incorporation of harrowed, breathy clean vocals in tracks two and nine; a really piercing yell in track three that puts contemporaries Cradle of Filth to shame; a forceful yell in track ten, and an extended performance in a softer, gothic style for the excellent fifth track. Peter Theobald's bass is fleshed out by the thin production and provides distinct rhythms for all songs while the guitars mess around with solos, and the drums of David Gray (no, not that one. That would be funny though) range from full-pelt blast beats to more relaxed, catchy rhythms in the more atmospheric songs and interludes. The line-up lacks a keyboard player at this point, another factor serving to make this album unique, but prominent samples of voices and atmospheric or mechanical sound effects are still employed on about half of the tracks.

The album begins with a clichéd forsaking of God and invocation of Satan that's so short as to be on the verge of skip-worthy, the first of many wastes of time here, but the rest of the album avoids falling into the tedious territory of mere Satan worship for shock's sake, offering a mix of emotive and often downright strange pleas and accounts that are more often than not tinged with sexuality and overflowing with evil, though not in an overtly disgusting, Cannibal Corpse way. The band's genre has provided a source of debate as far back as their previous incarnation as Salem Orchid, with some insisting on black metal, others going for death metal, and most agreeing to place a slash mark in the middle and accept it as a combination of both. On this first album the seams are a little more evident, with some tracks falling slightly more obviously into each respective camps and others slipping off the scale entirely. It's not that unusual, not even that good from a critical perspective, but it's interesting.

From the daft 'Declaration' where some well-spoken girls renounce God in a manner that I can't help finding slightly alluring (I'm a sucker for the accent, as opposed to the message), the album lets rip with a couple of fast songs in the black/death style, the former being slightly more attuned to black metal in its harsh, treble-heavy guitars and reliance on gimmicky effects, and the second being more in line with traditional death with its hammering drums, heavy breakdowns and guitars that sound like they're scraping against the roof of a coffin. This is also the first taste of a squealy, discordant guitar solo, which the gentlemen improve upon significantly with later tracks. Unfortunately, just as things are getting interesting, the listener is forced to contend with the first of three tedious and entirely worthless interlude tracks, this one using cheap horror sound effects and crunchy static in a pale imitation of Ulver's scary intro to their classic 'Een Stemme Locker' that has been more recently ripped off by Agalloch numerous times. The problem with Akercocke's eerie interludes here is that none of them really sound eerie in any way, the sound effects never convincing of the evil presence that haunts similar compositions from the likes of Behemoth and Burzum, and most often (as is the case with tracks six and sixty-six), sounding more like someone scrolling through the sound effects from a 'Sonic the Hedgehog' game.

Ignoring this second pointless bridge between them, 'Marguerite and Gretchen' and 'Zuleika' represent the peak of the album, the first seeing the band's gothic romantic side come to the fore with a style initially reminiscent of Eighties goth, including the catchy, repetitive drum beat, deep vocals and repeated guitar hook, but inevitably collapsing back into a black metal cacoffiny for the energetic conclusion. The lyrics are expectedly lovelorn in a slightly twisted way as Mendonça divulges the pleasure he experiences, as "I inhale the sweetness of the innocence I destroy," and there's even a nice female presence in the form of a soprano who sings sweet, wordless nothings in the more pleasant sections. It's a nicely confused song, and probably this album's main selling point. 'Zuleika' is very different, opting for a straightforward death metal direction in the classic style, with the tale of insatiable lust communicated solely through indecipherable grunts, and guitars spewing solos like so much spilled blood. The poor production may prevent it from attaining the head-crushing ferocity of higher budget extreme metal acts, but there's enough sheer force as each section leaps with increasing ferocity to the next that this really doesn't become an issue. You can tell the subject matter is angrier because there's a strong swear word in the lyrics, as well as some lines that are just plain weird: "I could almost believe in Allah for your sake."

Ignoring the chanted 'Conjuration' is the only reasonable course of action to proceed to the final two impressive songs, disappointingly only the fifth and sixth if scrutinising the album from a value-for-money angle that it really doesn't stand up to, and the style returns to that of the openers. 'Il Giardino Di Monte Oliveto Maggiore' is enjoyable, boasting a great main riff and cool, creepy singing that sounds disconcertingly uncertain of itself, but it becomes quite clear at this point that the band has effectively run out of ideas, presumably the reason behind half of this album being made up of half-hearted filler. 'Justine' is even more irritating as the finale, taking over a minute of white noise to get started (and nearly as long to conclude), and once again resorting to ineffective samples to needlessly bulk out the sound, though it has to be said that there are some really good lead guitars in this one. As a final treat - or more likely, an attempt to add yet more deceptive value to this limited release by adding some minutes to the counter - there are fifty-five tracks of brief silence before a final bonus track comes in and subjects the listener to a few more rubbish Sonic sound effects. The most pathetic thing of all is, there isn't even anything nasty about the number 66; the band clearly intended it as a sort of joke or clever point concerning the supposed number of the beast, which is actually six hundred greater, but as CD players are only programmed to read up to 99 tracks the joke falls flat on its stupid Satanic face.

Akercocke would go on to release some of the more refined and interesting albums in British extreme metal, but this debut is best avoided unless you go in for the ambient experience of frequent interludes and don't mind them being considerably sub-standard. There are a few decent songs on here, but it's the fact that there are so few that's the problem; stemming from a previous band formed seven years earlier, you'd think these gentlemen would have amassed more material by 1999, but alas, they were probably preoccupied at the tailor's or the masque or something.

Blast for Satan - 90%

NeonGod, August 21st, 2006

Contrary to what some other people might (have) say (said) about the first track of this album, a woman declaring herself the adversary of the Christian faith, this is the only track of the album (save for the filler tracks before The Blood) that I can’t really stand. It’s pure cheese.
Much to my delight, however, the album picks up immediately afterwards. Hell opens up quickly and doesn’t let up, mixing in blast beats, guitar breaks, clean vocal samples, and even a repeated chorus from Declaration (feels less cheesy with music behind it) with great effectiveness. The unorthodoxy of the low-end vocals comes to the listener’s attention immediately, but I was able to forgive the breach in convention.

Next along is Nadja, where we properly hear the more effective and absolutely sinister high-end vocals layered with the low-end. This slab of metal is not much different from Hell, except that it’s much more to the point - no samples, no defiant women. Not a bad tune.
Track 4, the Goat, is the first ‘breather’ on the disc. Some breathing, some screaming and some power electronics make for an atmospheric piece that doesn’t really strike the listener until he hears once the sun’s gone down. Trust me.

Marguerite and Gretchen is my favourite song on this album. It mixes clean vocals with growling, juxtaposes slower, even soft, breaks with bombastic segments, complete with wordless, operatic, female vocals before finally blasting once again to prove faithful to the first songs on the album. Things close off with a solo that crosses the line of becoming abrasive noise, fading into the female operatic vocals once again, which continue for roughly a minute, joined by a cello, before ending. Didn’t see it coming.

Sephiroth Rising is another filler piece. It’s comprised of whispering voices, some very low near-vocal wind instrument, and a series of percussion, mostly drums. Pretty much on par with a Nile instrumental, but more simplistic.

Zulieka is a return to death metal. There are blasts, there are slower, almost breakdown-like riffs, there is some snarling about cunts and sex. There are more abrasive solos. There’s even a pickup beat. It finishes abruptly as half-clean vocals layer with both high- and low-end growls. It’s really missing nothing, but it somehow pales in comparison to the massive, operatic styling of Marguerite and Gretchen. Perhaps that was the reason for the inclusion of the instrumental between the two.

Alright, I lied. There are two tracks on the album that I can’t really stand. The second is Conjuration, a satanic chant that sounds as though its participants are all French. Maybe it’s a reference to the borderline infamous French satanic cults, as though to help enhance the 19th-Century Satanist image Akercocke attempts to invoke. Maybe not. Anyway, it’s more interesting that Declaration, but it feels like a speed bump on my way to the next song.

Giardino de Monte Oliveto Maggiore seems pretty run-of-the-mill for this album (hardly boring) until it breaks into a series of samples, a solo, and then two verses (depending on how you see it) of clean vocals interspersed with low-end growls. The clean vocals become more and more tortured after the second verse, finishing with a woman screaming and heading right into the blast. Badass.

Justine starts off slowly, taking its time with power-electronic buzz to build until you think it’s another filler piece only to end sharply - the metal begins here. This song might be considered a culmination of the rest of album, featuring clean vocals, blasts, slow riffs, clean vocals, samples, solos...everything but the female vocals, which have seen enough use throughout the album to justify their absence. The song seems over before it begins, though, as it cuts out to more filler noise with a good forty seconds to go in the track, and considering how long it took to begin, well, that’s a small cut.

Enter many, many tracks of silence, until the bonus track on my edition, The Blood, begins to play. I’m not sure why it was included, as it’s not actually a metal song at all, but more power electronics and other background noise. I suppose that fans of the instrumentals on the album might like it, and I did like them, but I thought this was unnecessary
All in all, a great debut release and actually my favourite Akercocke album, despite its short play time. People argue over whether or not the band is death metal or black metal, and even though I subscribe to the former, it ultimately doesn’t matter; it’s the Faustian image of Satan that counts, and this disc conveys it with total and inspired clarity.

Cut them a little slack - 65%

Dedsox, July 4th, 2006

After reading the other reviews for this album I decided it was only fair that I put forward my views on this album - which influenced Akercocke's musical careers in such a positive way.
The intro is pretty much standard really, nothing special just your typical anti-christ declaration.
Hell, the second track automatically brings the rating for this album to atleast a 20. The drumming is fast paced yet still in time, something that a lot of black/death metal bands forget (or are unable to do). Even here Jason Mendonca's voice is impressive and vast. He proves that his growling is just as good as his clean vocals and through listening to the later Akercocke albums you can tell that he really progressed as a vocalist and lyricist. Hell was also the first song ever to be produced by Akercocke which isn't bad considering Salem Orchid's amateurish sound.
Nadja is a pretty decent song, the growling in this song is quite impressive but the guitar is fairly tedious and boring. The drumming seems to be consisted of blast beat drums and a little double kick. Nothing really amazing about this song but it's definately still worth listening to.
The Goat isn't from this earth, I could honestly say the first time I heard this, I thought I was in the deepest valleys of hell. The static in the background gives an incredibly insane sound and the electronics are pretty damn scary. Nothing musically stands out on this track though, that's probably the downfall of this album - too much filler, not enough killer. They obviously learnt from their mistakes though with Goat of Mendes.
Marguerite & Gretchen is an awesome track from the start. It starts with a medium paced riff but with fairly impressive drumming. Peter Theobalds makes a really good effort on this track with the bass standing out a lot on this track.
The clean vocals on this song are pretty good and this song includes female vocals which sounds pretty cool.
Sephiroth Rising is a fairly poor track for me, nothing really good about this track at all - more filler really.
Sempiternal Suffering which was on the 2002 re-release is a pretty good song - I love the opening guitars. Akercocke have always been able to compose riffs that sound good without being amazingly techical (although Matt Wilcock has introduced a more technical sound to their music now).
The rest of the songs on this album are pretty mediocre really - nothing much worth mentioning. Akercocke were obviously never really that keen on this album, when I saw them on 17th may this year, they only played 'Hell' from this album, but that's understandable considering how much they have progressed from this album.
All in all I believe this is a decent first-release with a few standout tracks (namely Hell and Marguerite & Gretchen).
This album doesn't score more because of the massive amounts of filler though, it can't be denied that this is more filler than killer.

Rating: 65%