Funereal Presence - Achatius
Sepulchral Productions
Black Metal
4 songs (48:32)
Release year: 2019
Sepulchral Productions
Reviewed by Goat

A side-project of Matthias Müller, better known as Bestial Devotion, the drummer and backing vocalist for USBM cultists Negative Plane, this is an odd little album. Conceptually about the Christian martyr Achatius (or Agathius) of Byzantium (the patron Saint of people with headaches after two years of torture ended in his beheading) there's a real mixture of styles included, the opening melodic plucking of Wherein Achatius Is Awakened and Called Upon soon changing to raw blasting and downright garage-esque rocking black metal, sinister distant keyboards adding a dose of queasy atmosphere. It's like a twisted form of Darkthrone, particularly around the four-minute mark with those oddly catchy 80s guitar leads, before the track lurches back into galloping blasts. And you can tell Bestial Devotion is having a good time from the interesting and almost progressive structure that keeps changing things up, if the multiple uses of cowbell weren't also a clue!

The track is hugely enjoyable if you're a fan of guitar-driven black metal, enough going on to merit multiple relistens even with that over twelve-minute track length, and it's hard not to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by the time that the track ends with tolling church bells added to the mix. And that's just the first song of four! The oddly melodic riffing that opens Wherein A Messenger of the Devil Appears soon propels it into a blasting frenzy, but it's at least as diverse a track as the opener, if not moreso with the sudden shifts in speed, clearer spoken vocals and further limited use of church bells, plus a melancholic interlude that breaks it up nicely.

None of the tracks here are under eleven minutes long but they never feel overly lengthy or get dull, even with the similarities between them. Wherein Seven Celestial Beasts Are Revealed to Him initially seems more straightforward with relentlessly pounding drums and almost grinding riffs, vocals a ranting rasp, yet a sudden melodic interjection at the midway point heralds a turn toward the epic, the guitars reaching upwards through the mire to a glimpse of something almost beautiful, particularly when acoustic strums join the cacophony.

And that's expanded on in the final piece, Wherein Achatius is Flogged to the Hills of Violation, a slower, gloomier introduction leading to a step back towards the 80s-infused galloping of the album's start. As a whole the album is a dense, heavy listen yet there is meaning to be found underneath it all and whilst raw and not having a particularly great production, the album does reward multiple listens and familiarity. Black metal is barely thirty years old, but the genre continues to surprise and delight even in forms like this that are spiritually close to the roots of the genre and while Achatius does have flaws, it's more than worthy of your time and ears.

Killing Songs :
Wherein Achatius Is Awakened and Called Upon, Wherein Seven Celestial Beasts Are Revealed to Him
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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