Akercocke
Goat of Mendes

Peaceville never plied the safest of waters with its artists or its artists’ statements. The label’s outspoken stance on artist integrity is seen not in the atmospheric delight of Anathema, My Dying Bride, et al., but in the likes of Autopsy, GGFH and, most importantly, Dark Throne. Autopsy’s Shitfun cover was the progenitor of the current we-have-sicker-cover-art-than-you (see Disgorge’s Forensick) campaign that’s tarnishing whatever tact is left in extreme music while Dark Throne’s not-so-subtle Aryan banter on Transilvanian Hunger garnered lots of unfavorable press for the band and label.

Sadly, shock tactics have as much depth as a Dimmu Borgir production. And for an act like England’s Akercocke, to shock for the simple sake of doing so isn’t terribly commendable. Like, say, Gehenna, Akercocke’s newest work for Peaceville is disturbingly real, where succinct musicianship and unique songwriting concepts converge with stylized satanic lyrics and artwork. Opener “Of Menstruation Blood and Semen” is a primal surge of death and black metal delivered with fervent ferocity. In many ways, Akercocke’s music resembles Nile’s Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka – the riff structure, multi-headed vocal (screams, roars, bellows) assault and Stygian melodic underpinnings are evoked in similar fashion of their American counterparts. “A Skin for Dancing In,” similarly, uses a lethal combination of barbaric riffing and infernal plucking (think, Gehenna’s “Devil’s Work”) as well as requisite screaming and perfectly placed clean vocals to establish the dynamic – Akercocke’s music provokes a reaction in the listener: the shifting of the eyes, the nervous twitching of the hands and quickening of the heart are all fomented by the quintet’s unholy musical vision. “Betwixt the Iniquitatis and the Prostigiators,” an uncomfortable interlude of rusted horns, cavalcades to the sound of an army of undead whose trumpets of war and hate are slightly off from years of weathering the elements. “The Horns of Baphomet” embodies the evil it successfully emanates; although, much different in execution, Bathory’s The Return of Darkness and Evil comes to mind as Akercocke coagulate the rapturous sound death metal with sheer satanic atmospheric weight.

Of course, two albums into their career, these dinner jacket-wearing lads aren’t always successful in their pursuit of the ultimate intimidator. “Masks of God” and, well, the latter half of the album are repetitive of the first half. Songs like “The Serpent,” “He is Risen,” and “Fortune My Foe” take on a less inventive approach, settling ultimately for the effect of ravaging but simple death metal – the album’s proclivity to haunt and install fear is left to simple conventions of the genre. “Breaking the Silence” and “The Ceremony of Nine Angels” decimates the pretense of Cradle Of Filth and the like. The songs convey a sense of urgency, using expeditious passages, screeching vocals, backwards riffing (see “The Ceremony of Nine Angels”) and other seedy devices to their fullest effect.

An album like Goat of Mendes isn’t the most instant listen, for the layers of satanic sound don’t always gel seamlessly. Yet, it’s that trait, along with Akercocke’s severely twisted style, that allows an album like this to succeed as a bona fide entrant into burnt pages of extreme metal. Akercocke just might sound like a bastard child of Nile, Gehenna and early Cradle Of Filth, but these British perverts are tight-lipped to reveal the specifics of their origin. Akercocke’s music is an old, dirty razor cutting warm flesh.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
April 10th, 2001

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