Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Underground Classic -Akercocke ' Choronzon ' (2003, Earache)

Ask anyone you know who's not a metal fan what 's the first thing they think of when they hear the term 'heavy metal' , and chances are, in among responses like 'hairy bastards drinking buckfast' and 'noisy cunts' will be the term 'Devil Worshipping Music' .Now, as we all know ,the auld horned lad likes himself a bit of heavy tuneage from time to time, and the feeling tends to be mutual, be it the censor/law baiting antics of the black metal hordes, or Bon Scott proclaiming his allegiance to the ways of the Big Bad Dude with 'Highway To Hell' . However, generally , it's all quite tongue in cheek(I obviously don't mean the church burning) , with a few cheeky devils horns thrown up every now and then to sate the Dark Lord.However, one band from London was taking it very seriously , very seriously indeed.Yes boys and girls, it's AKERCOCKE!

Formed in 1997 by guitarist/vocalist Jason Mendonca and drummer David Gray (no, not that one), and later joined by guitarist Paul Scanlan and bassist Peter Thoebalds.The band released their debut 'Rape Of The Bastard Nazarene' in 1999, followed by their Earache debut 'The Goat Of Mendes'  in 2001.The two records were well received in extreme metal circles, with the band's devotion to their (apparent) Satanic faith and a fondness for lyrical imagery of a , shall we say, less than salubrious nature, shone through to give their progressive blackened death metal a more sinister and intelligent  edge on the identikit black clad hordes windmilling in the shadow of HEWHOSHALLNOTBENAMED. But it was with the release , in 2003, of the band's remarkable third album ' Choronzon', that marked them out as true originals in the extreme metal scene, and certainly one of the most innovative, and it is this album we shall be prodding for some Underground Classic fun today.

Now when one hears the term 'Satanic Death Metal' , in some cases it can lead to rolled eyes, and sneers of 'well, that's original'.However what made Akercocke unique was their commitment to creating an atmosphere of sheer horror and demonic allure , with as much of an emphasis on moments of eerie disquiet as flaying a listener with a sheer wall of blastbeats and riffs, though there is that too.And although it is fair to say that on first impressions , the band can be said to sound much the same as many similar bands, dig deeper into 'Choronzon'  , and one can be surprised by the vast array of influences evident in the band's maelstrom of sound, everything from the soaring progressive mastery of Rush through to the atmospheric guitar sounds of bands like Killing Joke and Godflesh, to the rhythmic subversion favoured by bands like Voivod , and even, as evidenced by the opening of the epic 'Son Of The Morning',, bizarrely,  a love of new wave synth pop , singer Mendonca as much a master of  a devilish croon as he is able to grunt and scream like someone in the throes of a serious bout of demonic possession.Witness, for example, the symphonic blast of  'Becoming The Adversary', and it's detours into moments of twisted electronica, or the ending of key track 'Leviathan', and it's soaring string section and stunning, emotive vocal performance from Mendonca..And just when you 're getting sucked into the sonic whirlwind, and bombast, delicate  closer 'Goddess Flesh' arrives to soothe the senses, a track astonishing in  it's melodic beauty, and a welcome oasis after the sheer devilry that precedes it , with a brilliant string arrangement that is almost cinematic in it's scope , along with another wonderful performance from Mendonca.

The band's subsequent albums would take the band' s sonic progressions and sound and push them further, and further away from the black/death metal genre, however, for the best and most satisfying distillation of the band's heady witches brew, 'Choronzon' is as good a reference point as any, and in this writer's humble opinion, it is one of the lesser celebrated underground metal classic albums. So draw the curtains, pour yourself a glass of finely aged Port, and delve into the hellish delights of this criminally underrated band.

For fans of : Emperor, Morbid Angel, Aborym

Stephen O ' Connor

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