(On June 26th Agonia Records will release a new album by the Greek coven Acherontas, and today we present Andy Synn‘s review of this eye-opening, mind-expanding new record.)
The only constant in life, or so they say, is change.
But that doesn’t mean change is always good, or even wanted, especially when it comes to music.
By the same token, however, bands who refuse to change, refuse to progress, run the risk of sinking into a swamp of creative stagnation from which it’s often impossible to escape.
It’s a conundrum. How much change is too much… and how much is not enough?
Eight albums into their career, it seems like cult Black Metal coven Acherontas have found their own answer to this question, as while Psychic Death may not have shattered my perceptions of the band, it’s certainly made me rethink how I perceive their music.
I didn’t realise this at first, of course, especially since vibrant opener “Paradigms of Nyx” initially caught me off guard with its brilliant blend of quicksilver melodies and nifty, Necrophobic-esque riffs, leading me to expect an album of swift cuts and sharp hooks that prioritise speed and intensity above all else…
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are undoubtedly some absolutely blistering moments scattered across the length and breadth of this album.
The first half of “Kiss the Blood”, for example, is a blast-fiend’s wet-dream, while the grisly grooves and punishing percussion of “The Offering of Hemlock” help make it one of the record’s most instantly impactful, not to mention irresistibly infectious, numbers.
But there’s far more going on here than just another run-of-the-mill Black Metal blast-fest, as you’ll quickly discover once the aforementioned “Kiss the Blood” transitions into its haunting second half, discarding its early metallic fury in favour of a bleak, brooding procession of doom-laden drum beats and spine-tingling lead guitar melodies designed to stimulate the senses and expand the mind in equal measure.
It’s only during the dual-centrepiece of “Psychic Death”, and “Coiled Splendour” where the album’s true character is fully revealed, however, the former a desolate, dream-like dirge built from layers of soaring leads and intricate melodic fretwork, the latter an undulating leviathan of light and shade, which showcases some of the most creative and captivating instrumentation on the entire record without sacrificing an erg of primal power.
It was at this point I realised that Psychic Death is perhaps the most introspective and introverted album of the band’s career, one which prioritises the realisation and exploration of the self, and the revelation of inner truths, and embraces the band’s progressive side – I hear echoes of Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and even Vangelis throughout these eight tracks – like never before.
These themes aren’t brand new to the band by any means, but it seems to me that they’ve never been quite as prominent, or as poignant, as they are here. And it was this revelation which caused me to look at this album with new eyes (and fresh ears), transforming the relentless momentum and spiralling tremolo lines of “The Brazen Experimentalist” into a bewitching and beguiling display of hypnotic harmony and euphoric energy, and allowing me to fully appreciate the depth of thought and scope of vision which went into the creation of mesmerising closer “Magick of Mirrors”.
Some of you may now be wondering to yourselves – is this the best album of the band’s career?
Well, the truth is I don’t know. In fact I’m not even sure that’s the right question to ask.
Because while I’m sure Acherontas set out with just such an intention in mind, Psychic Death doesn’t give you any easy answers.
Instead it asks you to reject such simple, binary notions and challenges you to change the way you look at things, to shatter your perceptions, and your preconceptions, about the band and their music.
So while I can’t quite tell you if this is their “best” album yet, or not, one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that, eight albums into their career, Acherontas are still capable of surprising us, and still unwilling to be defined by anyone’s expectations but their own.