So, Akercocke, it’s been a while; you’ve been missed, welcome back. Trailblazers in their genre, and firm cult favourites Akercocke left a massive hole in both the scene and our cold black hearts when they went on hiatus, and the news they’d be releasing new material was met with widespread anticipation. Renaissance in Extremis (Peaceville) is the album that many a metalhead has been hoping for, but until recently didn’t think we’d get.
With such a gap between releases, and their commitment to doing things differently from anyone else, it was inevitable that there would be some changes from the rejuvenated line-up. The most obvious are the lack of suits and the absence of overtly Satanic lyrics; this Akercocke is a much more modern beast.
Thematically the album has much more introspective lyrics, dealing with issues of pain and loss, rather than the bombastic tributes to Satan. Instead of their almost trademark pomp; there’s a new-found raw honesty and fragility in the vocal performance of Jason Mendonca, from the haunting clean vocals to the raw bite present in the growls and barks, which aren’t quite as notable in their previous works.
For old school Akercocke fans there’s plenty here to listen to, the first half of the album has more than enough chugging riffs, blistering solos and lead work filled with spiralling arpeggios from Jason Mendonca and the returning Paul Scanlan. This being supported by the work of the flawless rhythm section from the legendary Blast Vader himself David Gray and new bassist Nathaniel Underwood.
Tracks such as ‘Unbound by Sin’, fuse a heavy fast tone with progressive elements. One of my favourite tracks ‘Insentience’ could almost give ‘Verdelet’ a run for its money in terms of power. ‘First to Leave the Funeral’ has echoes of their Satanic pomp of old, and ‘One Chapter Closes for Another to Begin’ has some out and out black metal fury. The only gripe I have with the earlier section would be that the production seems to lack the deep sound and multi-layered depth of their previous records, only slightly but notable.
The last few tracks, however, are where for me personally Akercocke show their commitment to forging new ground. Instead of extreme music with progressive elements, the album shifts the balance toward progressive song writing with extreme elements, and provides the more rewarding part of the album. This gives us haunting clean vocals and some beautiful song structures, especially my personal favourite ‘Inner Sanctum’, an introspective almost meditative track.
Final track ‘A Particularly Cold September’ is, for my money, a masterpiece and showcases that new-found maturity in Akercocke, what, with many other bands, could easily have descended into chaos, is organised and balanced meticulously and presented with maturity and a cold focused fury. Whilst not exactly picking up where they left off, it’s clear that their commitment to forging new paths remains undiminished.
It’s damned good to have you back.