The defiance of Roman soldier, and fabled martyr, Achatius in refusing to make sacrifice to ‘pagan’ gods made him a beloved saint and a sacrifice to Christianity himself. Roman Catholicism delights in the details of his torture in most any record available while each account resembles a game of ‘telephone’ adding even more depraved battery to the list of righteous skin-flaying brutality. From chain-whipped, spiked flagellation and salted wounds to his inevitable beheading seven years later no two sources of information necessarily agrees if he was martyred at all. This despite Achatius‘ position as one of the ‘Fourteen Holy Helpers’ who died for Christianity and serve as pillars in defiance of plague and/or illness, oddly enough. How then is a man so vividly remembered for his beheading in the name of his Christian faith exalted in the Roman Catholic tradition? As the saint who would free the pious of headaches when invoked. There is some obviate hilarity in this station for what is likely a long distended and mutilated bit of Christian propaganda but, much can be gleaned from Achatius‘ sainthood in questioning why a martyr is so effective a symbol for population that was long invaded yet still culturally defiant. A thousand years beyond, his specific martyrdom would be important symbolic aid in the destabilization of the brutal Ottoman empire. Christianity was made more appealing in the throes of devastation with the reshaped, retold martyrdom of Achatius; The story of a soldier who died for his belief in one God easily inspired those who would adopt new beliefs, perhaps if only to be freed from the atrocities against Pontic Greeks and Armenians. Sovereignty is not given but killed for, historically speaking. How does any of this relate to this second great work of German by way of New York black metal musician Bestial Devotion (Mattias Müller) under the name Funereal Presence? I believe the piece offers retribution for the martyrs crime of devotion, that the story is retold yet again as a freshly lifted corpse brutalized in Hell. Though I merely entertain myself with my own interpretation, you will undoubtedly feel the devout spirit aflame in the remarkable set of four obeisances to black metal within ‘Achatius’.
‘The Archer Takes Aim’ (2014) was a growling, epic synesthesia wherein astral projection was achieved through the psychedelic blackness of the void. A trail of winding, ambitious and otherworldly rhythm that could only sustain the listener with powerful interest and attentive nature likewise defines ‘Achatius’ five years later, though the means to that end is rethought. Not rebuking but also not redefining his past work in Negative Plane, the messaging for Funereal Presence now shifts from the void of space towards total Hell in the form of devotional, ecstatically pure black metal. What magic has been risked in the conjuration of ‘Under the Sign of the Black Mark’ Bathory for the sonic heresy of ‘Achatius’ was entirely worth its resultant textural, corrosive being. With the ghastly speed metal of Tormentor (see: ‘Seventh Day of Doom’) and the wicked dramatics of Root‘s ‘Zjevení’ flourishing amidst trailing heavy metal guitar work each movement achieves an affecting, touching resonance that is deeper and potentially more earnest than the previous recording. Raw in expression but narrative in its execution the full listen here offers inspirational freedom with increasing structural balance throughout, where Bestial Devotion appears with greater trust for his own instinct and personal taste.
This is of course the drummer from Negative Plane and that inherent freely whirling inspiration stands out-and-high above so many black metal drummers concerned with the status quo. The fine use of the almglocken on “Wherein Achatius is Awakened and Called Upon” is even more pronounced than its brief flits on ‘Et in saecula saeculorum’ this should be considered a small bit of genius for its addition to the overall sound design of ‘Achatius’ which is at once purist and highly concieved. Each track extends well into 11-13 minute length but at no point does that translate into tedium, rather a nearly free form blackened speed metal horror whirled higher by lead guitar work that I’d equate with any great ecstasy heavy metal has ever offered. So much happens in every track that you will be compelled to re-experience them. “Wherein Achatius is Awakened and Called Upon” is a righteous example with the aforementioned cowbell a mere flourish amidst church bells, “Call From the Grave”-esque riffs, NWOBHM-fueled (see: Bulldozer‘s ‘Neurodeliri’) wailing dual leads, that altogether sums into an almost Baroque 80’s black metal epic. While each track offers its own terrarium of magnificent taste and pure spirited black metal it would be “Wherein Seven Celestial Beasts Are Revealed To Him” that tormented my mind most, there I could exist a corpse under glass forever in its looping grandeur; The piece also serves as a small revelation in terms of how these structures are built atop forms akin to epic doom metal, despite the execution achieved entirely through first wave black/heavy metal insistence.
Though Funereal Presence is no longer entirely on a singular plane of stylistic existence thanks to intrepid work from Spite the year previous, Bestial Devotion’s work is yet entirely one of a kind from in terms of ‘Achatius’ non-traditional song structures and flowing execution. It should be no surprise that every moment of this release is so gripping to my ears as the attention to detail throughout the fifty minute length of this second full-length can be expected from the artist who typically works on each full-length for 4-5 years. There is so much to appreciate within each track I’d almost felt I need another couple of months to reign in my thoughts on it but alas, I would rather the exuberant doom of the record were praised through my own enthusiasm. Beyond my own exceeded expectations and glowing praise of the dark there is some objectively great appeal within that I believe ‘Achatius’ deserves my highest recommendation; It is effortlessly inspirational in its pursuit of true black metal. Though I would normally recommend a track to preview, any preview would constitute one fourth of the full album and a full listen is highly encouraged before making any sort of judgement.
Gutting the heavens by fiery dagger. 5.0/5.0
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