Acrimonious
Sunyata

There are a few misleading factors surrounding this album that left me feeling a little duped. First off, the colorful, painterly cover art looks like something you would see for sale on a coffee shop checkout counter (well, except for the figure’s bare breasts and tentacled pubes). Secondly, the label describes the music as a “rock-influenced and ritual-driven black metal release, wrapped in a classic heavy metal feeling.” And, then there’s the fact that the band resides in Greece, which is known for producing some unique and interesting black metal. All of this had my imagination running wild. I envisioned a psychedelic mix of Urfaust and Front Beast (how awesome would that be?) or maybe early Rotting Christ meets Verdunkeln (in other words, godlike). So, I think you can appreciate my disappointment when what came from my speakers was almost entirely straightforward Swedish black metal in the vein of Watain and Valkyrja. However, the keyword there is “almost.”

After a beautiful, somber ambient/violin instrumental that sounds like something from an Aronofsky film, “Lykaria Hecate” hits you with a vicious flurry of biting guitars, spiralling riffs, powerful vocals, and whirlwind drumming with some thunderous fills. It all sounds great, but not at all what I was expecting. The track becomes more melodic and morose when it slows after a brief interlude of low clean guitar plucking and organs. It’s still nothing unique, but it’s passionate and flawlessly executed. This is the case for most of the album. In each track, tempos shift between blistering and mid-paced segments that are often no less intense due to rapid double-bass drumming and tremolo riffing. No hint of rock influence or what I would consider to be ritual-driven black metal ever surfaced. And, the only moments resembling classic metal were the ending of the aforementioned “Lykaria Hecate,” which sounds eerily similar to the very end of Metallica’s “Creeping Death,” and the highly-melodic mid-sections of “The Sloughted Scales of Seperation” and “Black Kundalini.” So, I don’t know how Agonia dreamed up their description because it definitely wasn’t from listening to this album.

The band’s most unique aspect is actually the vocals of Cain Letifer, which play a larger role here than in most black metal. Instead of just rasping over the music, Letifer uses his varied and impassioned voice to and add depth and shape the atmosphere of the music. His style ranges from typical black metal shrieking, gruff, forceful shouting, and clean, distant chanting that sounds like Saruman’s fell voice on the air. (Maybe they could get Christopher Lee to join in on their next album. He is a metalhead after all, but I digress.) Letifer is aided by a production that’s clean and sharp, but not artificial. I’m not privy to the lyrics, but based on the album and song titles’ references to Buddhism, I’m guessing they’re not your typical black metal themes.

It seems like Acrimonious want to do something special, but don’t quite know how yet. Nevertheless, what they have created is a slightly different take on Swedish black metal that’s thoroughly enjoyable for what it is once you accept that it’s not the off-kilter journey you might be expecting. I look forward to seeing where they go on their next album. It would be great to hear them expand upon their more melodic and emotional elements. Maybe then their label’s claims won’t be so unfounded.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
January 30th, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: Noch

    ”So, I don’t know how Agonia dreamed up their description because it definitely wasn’t from listening to this album.”

    I remember thinking the exact same thing when I heard this record yesterday. Based on the promo track I was already baffled by the descriptives they used, but I strongly went WTF when I listened to the whole thing. I find this album sure as heck needs some stronger dynamics and I’ve heard much better black metal since the year started, not quite sure I’ll ever come back to this one. It’s a bit too dull for me.


  2. Commented by: Francis

    The label description I saw actually made me purchase the CD even without listeting to it earlier. But say what – I’m definitely not disappointed! Damn awesome and solid record. All a metter of taste I guess.


  3. Commented by: caligulasremains

    “First off, the colorful, painterly cover art looks like something you would see for sale on a coffee shop checkout counter (well, except for the figure’s bare breasts and tentacled pubes)”

    “tentacled pubes” ? Are you referring to the black kundalini?


  4. Commented by: Adam Palm

    I suppose I am. Please excuse my failed attempt at humor.


  5. Commented by: Giovani

    Album of the year for me!


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