The Antichrist Imperium - The Antichrist Imperium
Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings
Progressive Black/Death
7 songs (46:46)
Release year: 2015
Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings
Reviewed by Goat

With Akercocke's slipping away into the night, it's easy to see that something of a musical hole has been left in their wake. And although Voices has gone a way towards solving that, many fans would still have loved a resurrection of the 'Cocke, or even a farewell album. This project may go some way towards accomplishing that, a collection of reworked Akercocke song ideas that never made it to fruition, marketed as being exhumed from 'the sixth Akercocke album that never was'. True, the flaws are immediate; there's no Jason Mendonça present, for many the integral voice and soul of Akercocke. Still, Blast Vader himself David Gray is here on drums, as is former Berzerker guitarist Matt Wilcock, and dual vocalists Sam Loynes (Voices) and Sam Bean (The Senseless) are good enough to more than set The Antichrist Imperium against past albums in quality.

This really is an album for a certain set of fans, those who loved Chorozon but felt the albums after drifted too far towards experimental realms, and as such this is a spiritual follow-up to that rather than 2007's Antichrist. The progressive elements here are all in the riffs and clean singing, which are a significant aspect of this album but not an overpowering one. Certain tracks feature a complete lack of them; this is primarily the sort of muscular yet appealing blackened death metal that Akercocke made their name on, and although you can see with retrospect why these songs were considered second-rate, when given life in this way they more than stand up to scrutiny, and even lesser Akercocke is still very much worthy of your ears.

The best tracks are front-loaded. Elegy kicks things off with a rabid assault of thrashy death metal, the deep growls perhaps a little deeper than Mendonça's but perfectly fitting the music. It's amazing how polished this is, for music of such supposedly unpolished origins. The clean vocals come alongside a melodic, suitably gothic interlude, perhaps as much classic Opeth as Akercocke yet still grippingly atmospheric, and followed by an almost Tom G Warrior-esque throaty gasp backed ably by bass and drums. Follow that with near-My Dying Bride melancholia and more atmospheric lead guitar, and you have the sound of a great band that knows how to mix in influences without sounding derivative and making for a quality listen for the discerning fan. The Spiritual Rapist is possibly even better, sounding like a lost Goat of Mendes track with its yearning opening clean vocals that soon turns to thrashy gallops, switching back and forth to great effect.

Afterwards, things take only a slight downturn. Desecrated Remains is fast and brutal but for the first time seems like the work of a different band, even with some nicely technical riffwork at the midpoint. It recovers well in the second half, those sexually tormented clean vocals that we're so used to coming back, even ending on some spooky spoken word that is right out of the nineties, but it's the first reminder that you're not listening to anything but echoes. The same goes for the following The Stiffening of Death – brutal, intense, with some nicely widdly soloing and truly evil snarling, but ultimately simply not as good as the opening tracks. Silhouette and Flame takes a divergent path with some limited but well-implemented electronic effects, while Kill For Satan is a blunt, punishing blast that simply rips through your ears and sounds like Anaal Nathrakh have turned up out of nowhere to lend a heavy hand. It's the closest thing to black metal I can remember hearing from any Akercocke-related band, even with a great switch towards the end to early-Morbid Angel-esque groove. After that, Epitaph takes a milder turn, going back in an Akercockean direction with proggy riffs galore and ending on acoustic plucks. It's a great album even without knowing the history behind it, but those with knowledge and fandom will appreciate it even more. Whether a one-off or a yin to Voices' Yang, The Antichrist Imperium is very welcome indeed.

Killing Songs :
Elegy, The Spiritual Rapist, Kill for Satan
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