Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis (UK)
Release – August/25/2017
Label – Peaceville Records
Available in digital, CD and limited edition red vinyl and Digibook formats
For close to twenty years now Akercocke fronted by original members Jason Mandonca (vocals, guitars) and David Grey (drums) have graced the metal world with a style many have tried to ‘nail down’ (specifically pigeonhole) but have only ever managed to touch the surface of. With themes and lyrical content drenched in Gothic and Satanic values and appearances often steeped in controversy Akercocke have never had an easy career laid out before them but rather a path they’ve carved with meticulous hard work forged by a style many have scratched their heads at in puzzlement. Many can be heard thinking aloud… are they a progressive, a black or an avantgarde metal outfit? But who said earning success was ever going to be easy, especially in light of today’s ever so thin-skinned society chomping at the bit for something/anything to be offended by.
Son of the Morning (taken from Choronzon) – A stunning example of Akercocke’s technical genius
Whilst those that have worshipped at the altar of Akercocke have done nothing but salivate at the musical majesty, cavernous depth and heart felt emotion nestled within each release. An Akercocke album truly is a thing of beauty, albeit seasonal ranging in stark brightness to pitch darkness in overall theme, not for those faint of heart, close minded or those wanting a ‘quick dip’ in the waters. Enjoyed as a whole, not for an individual riff or vocal passage, they offer tapestry like intricacies often whirlwind in intensity but then in another instance calm and melancholic. A total package encompassing all a discerning metal head could ever wish, packaged in an unassuming guise that expands to delight the senses.
Leviathan (taken from Choronzon) boasting Erotic, BDSM, Gothic allure against an awesome soundtrack.
In their earliest years Akercocke were often witnessed performing in suit and tie attire, all business as their musical output also vehemently attests to. A departure of ten years, since 2007’s Antichrist release, has found the band relax some in a live setting though only expand upon the multi-faceted sound and style they are best known for within the metal community.
Without further ado, my thoughts on Renaissance in Extremis.
Renaissance in Extremis Track Listing
Unbound by Sin
First to Leave the Funeral
A Final Glance Back Before Departing
One Chapter Closing for Another to Begin
A Particularly Cold September
At first glance, the album’s cover screams Akercocke. A stark frame, aged and dried leather in appearance, surrounds an image of what appears to be a figure in a state of total relaxation. That is until one spies the cloth hood tight around the figures face. The lighting itself is reminiscent of vintage homicide pictures from the turn of the century, a spotlight fading into pitch obscurity. In truth, after reflection, somewhat of a drastic turnabout from the plethora of album artwork found in a back catalog featuring black and white Satanic themes, unabashed naked forms and menacing imagery.
So, what then of the music itself? With nine tracks clocking in at just over fifty-four minutes in length Renaissance promises, at the very least, an epic nature. Surprising is that complexity starts barely a few moments into Disappear, the albums first track. A galloping riff attack crashes into a crescendo only then to form into something utterly Akercocke in feel showcasing, early on, Mendonca’s applaudable trademarked harsh to emotional spoken word vocal diversity. Disappear continues to flow like an earthquake’s after-shock seismic activity scale, dipping into progressive realms only to emerge revitalized into full-on black metal blasphemy assault. Traditional Akercocke style, predictable in its unpredictable nature and an amazing introduction to an album fans have been rabidly clamoring for near on a decade.
The album continues to inspire with Unbound by Sin, an unrelenting attack on the space between the ears that’ll leave the listener dazed, sore and panting for more of the same. Only two tracks in and I’m smiling like a monkey after realizing he can successfully pee into his own mouth.
Insentience immediately boasts a moody mid-tempo feel. A Gothic aura akin to My Dying Bride output that changes all too quickly into something completely sinister sporting wails and shrieks and an addictive drum barrage that’ll have you tapping your limbs to bony nubs within no time at all.
The album progresses illustrating Akercocke’s ability to grasp progressive elements, including them in their musical repertoire with transitional ease, without sacrificing the listeners interest. First to Leave the Funeral and Familiar Ghosts are amazing examples of the bands diversity, ability to effectively experiment, and the stunning array of talent on display admittedly found throughout the album.
A Final Glance Back Before Departing is an outstanding example of how varied genre styles can interact if handled delicately (ha! as if… this is Akercocke) to compose a masterful track. In all seriousness, this has all the ingredients to be played ad infinitum without fear of stagnation creeping in. A fantastic mid-way point in a release that’s rapidly transpiring into album of the year territory.
For all those seeking qualities of a blackened metal album look no further than the controlled chaotic crescendo apparent in the finale of One Chapter Closing for Another to Begin. A great touch adding depth to the track and another notch on the miscellany style totem for the album itself. If anyone were to carve one for this album I for one would love to see all its varied wicked and intricate illustrations. There’s a million-dollar idea if ever there were one, a visual aid to accompany an album. I digress.
The album’s finale comes in the form of A Particularly Cold September. With early nods to the atmospheric instrumental genius of Ne Obliviscaris, an Australian progressive outfit well worth discovery, the track whips into a frenzy around its mid-point only then to dip back into emotional charged melancholic instrumental depths. A fitting end for an album that marks, in all honesty, more than a return to form for Akercoke. In essence, a celebration of talent, ingenuity, dedication to the scene and the best that British metal has to offer.
This has album of the year written all over it!!!
Seek this out ASAP and add this masterwork to your collection, you can thank me later!!!
And for those interested in my earlier ponderings on vintage Akercocke, you can