Autokrator – Hammer of the Heretics (2018) REVIEW

The long and varied history of death metal in France has produced some of the most compelling extreme metal acts of the last three decades. For anyone inclined towards independent and underground artists there exists a virtual city of Atlantis beneath France’s black and death metal communities with many dedicated and original acts concerned with innovative mayhem. Montpellier based death metal duo Autokrator should be included in that crowd as they’ve created lethal waves of suffocating death metal across three atmospheric and brutal full-lengths in just a few years.

The band’s self-titled debut back in 2015 was perhaps the most belligerent and difficult death metal record of that year with it’s brutal, impossibly down-tuned approach to wall-of-noise death metal. The slight industrial undertones of ‘Autokrator’ petered out as their 2016 follow-up ‘The Obedience to Authority’ sought greater clarity and heightened brutality. The rise above the mud-thickened guitars of their debut unfortunately revealed somewhat artificial double-bass drums that didn’t work in the mix and I fell off of it’s sound after a few listens. The first two releases from Autokrator established the band as an excitingly brutal force within atmospheric death metal, but also left little to imagine in their future.

On their third full-length ‘Hammer of the Heretics’ Autokrator no longer aim for sheer sonic oppression as they become steadily more atmospheric and torturous with each release. Loïc.F‘s guitar tone still resembles an underwater orchestra of Godzilla-sized death groans but his approach has shifted towards twisted, doom crazed rhythms that feel impossibly subterranean. The drumming has lost most of it’s clicking programmed tone and allows for no loss of listener induction during brutal blasted sections. Though I found the interlude and samples became a hindrance to the flow of the tracklist, this is easily the best release from Autokrator thus far.

The most impressive moments on the album come in the second half where the final two songs reach beyond 8 minutes each. “Le Sang Impur” is a heaving wave of old school death metal patterned brutal death that contrasts with the first half of the record’s comparatively reserved tone. As soon as it gives way to screams and draining winds the title track “Hammer of the Heretics” gives the perfect final statement, and stand-out performances, of the album. Here the barreling roar of Incantation-like atmospherics edge into Ævangelist-esque riffing that somehow escapes the blurriness of each. And really the biggest compliment that I can give Autokrator at this point is that they don’t sound entirely derivative of any other band or scene at this point. Sure, they’re still just making sludgey atmospheric death metal with brutal drumming but without reliance on blankets of reverb found in comparable bands. I’d say don’t judge the album entirely by it’s first track, and try to sample one of the last two songs if you’re not already impressed.

ReleasedApril 10, 2018
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Death Metal

Of the world’s darkness. 3.5/5.0

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