I remember my first foray into extreme metal. There were two particular music videos that left lasting impressions on me (or scaring the shit out of me, to be really honest). The first being Dimmu Borgir‘s Sorgens Kammer – Del II. The way Shagrath peeled off his skin completely creeped me out, and the first exposure to Satanic imagery did little to quell my fears. Over the years, I eventually outgrew the symphonic style of Dimmu Borgir.
The other music video that had a similar effect was Akercocke‘s Axiom, with the dark and gothic imagery sending chills down my spine.
I eventually grew to appreciate the avant-garde/gothic/progressive style of black/death metal that Akercocke played, with Choronzon probably being my favourite release of theirs. The image of the band definitely helped in making them stand out from the sea of extreme metal bands that have popped up over the years as well.
Unfortunately, the band went into radio silence after 2007’s Antichrist, with David Gray moving on to form Voices, which while having some similarities with Akercocke, I never really fancied. So in what may be the most unexpected comeback of the year, Akercocke finally returns from a 10-year hiatus with their brand new album, Renaissance in Extremis.
With Renaissance in Extremis, the band seems to have shed their Savile Row bespoke skin, opting instead to go for the conventional death metal look. Fortunately, apart from the change of visual imagery, it is business as usual for the band, music-wise. The first moments of Disappear are already unmistakably Akercocke, with the percussive blasts of David Gray and the frantic lead guitar. The second Jason’s almost undecipherable growls come in, one feels at home once again, knowing that the bad has not lost its edge at all despite the long break.
On Renaissance in Extremis, Akercocke seems to have upped their thrashy edge. Throughout the album, there are countless riffs of Paul and Jason that bring to mind the speedy style of Slayer, like on First to Leave the Funeral, and it helps that the lead guitars on the album are often chaotic as hell, adding to the thrashy goodness.
Jason’s clean vocals, while admittedly not the best that I’ve heard, help to provide the dark and haunting vibe that the band’s music is known for. The effectiveness and the ease with which the band does so can be heard on songs like Insentience, with an orchestral backing to boot towards the end for added dramatic effect.
Like their previous works, Akercocke indulges in a rather progressive approach in their songwriting and structures, and on most tracks, the band switch styles and time signatures with ease. This is most evident on A Particularly Cold September. The transitions between different movements on the track are numerous, and true to its title, A Particularly Cold September seems to be the most bleak and emotional track on the album, with the closing guitar solo being rather melancholic, breaking free from the controlled chaos that the band set in motion, making it a fitting closer to the album. Heck, there is even the appearance of a saxophone to add to that avant-garde edge.
The band’s attention to detail can also be heard on the production. David’s drums in particular makes full use of the left and right channels, with the drum rolls often panning from the extreme left to the extreme right for the maximum immersive experience for the listener, like on Insentience. Guitar solos are also placed prominently in the mix, almost in-your-face, further leaving the listener with a sense of unease. And even on less bassy eaprhones like my Heir Audio 4.ai s, the bass isn’t buried in the mix, and is mixed in such a way that it creeps up especially during the quieter moments.
To say that Akercocke has just returned with yet another record is an understatement. Renaissance in Extremis may easily be one of the best works in their discography, and speaks for the experience they have accumulated over the years. For those looking for haunting, yet brutal black/death metal with an avant-garde edge, Reniassance in Extremis is the record to check out.
And to end things off, here’s a clip of Akercocke vs Christians a mere 10 years ago:
Favourite tracks: Unbound by Sin, A Final Glance Back Before Departing, A Particularly Cold September
Desktop: Calyx 24/192 > Shanling PH 300 > Audeze LCD-2
Portable: FiiO X5iii > Heir Audio 4.ai s