These words are designed to train the mind, not inform it. Upon awakening the three central sepheroth and reaching some intended transcendence Dion Fortune would birth ‘The Cosmic Doctrine’, a deluxe cosmogony in the form of a stream of unscientific consciousness supposedly inspired by an inexplicable enlightenment experienced by the occult author. The work of a detailed scholar, with a fine education, this akashic undertaking was perhaps the most glossed over great work of the writer likely due to her somewhat derided political career (at the time) within occult theological societies as well as its many derivative, incongruous and generally contradictory statements. Beyond the Newtonian explanation of the grand mechanical seven-planed universe lie the twenty seventh chapter ‘The Law of the Seven Deaths’ which very closely followed the ego death, the magia of nondualistic enlightenment; Opposing forces must be neutralized, one must transcend the plane of existence, destroy the individual consciousness through meditation, exist within and learn from the plane of dreams, rescind the personality and all desirous ways, find the ultimate state of trance (akin to astral projection) and achieve a new individual consciousness. To accurately paraphrase this journey cannot suffice in terms of what this spiritual ritual suggests as the outcome is entirely too personal, designed by the esoteric elite as a teaching tool for the enlightenment of their own kind. Athens, Greece born black metal esotericists Akrotheism now venture into the public space as the transcended, and forever changed, ‘elite’ among us with their own great work alight in the form of their second full-length ‘Law of Seven Deaths’.
Call them occult, philosophical, orthodox, esoteric, or simply avant-garde if you must the minds responsible for Akrotheism‘s descent beyond the light indulge in all of these subjects and styles in seeking and achieving the great planes beyond. They do so righteously with black metal as their intentioned foil, a form malleable and dark enough to convey the implied themes with appropriate violence. With the cessation of the fine-yet-traditional black metal project Astral Aeon after a decade of life the members would reconvene immediately that same year (2012) in forming Akrotheism. Though they are not related in terms of thematic vision and musical approach it was clear that a paradigm shift had become necessary after the core group had released ‘Allegories of Light’ (2008) and it’d be nearly six years before ‘Behold the Son of Plagues’ (2014) would provide it. Here the musicians moved beyond their first decade of basic training and allowed their intuition and ulterior senses towards something truly inspiring and I’d say that first full-length was an unexpected triumph; Personal ascension and practiced creation accounted for, what truly sets Akrotheism is both taste and high standards as seen in their consistent choices of album art, recording environment/staff, and appropriate target audience. The illusory ‘orthodox’ black metal movement beyond 2010 certainly influenced both these fine-art choices as well as their modern approach to songwriting. With ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ Akrotheism have once again made tasteful choices at every step while additionally writing this second hour of modern black metal as equally high concept and meticulously realized art.
Have they killed their idols? Perhaps not, but they’ve communed with those fine essences and emerged coated in the ashen dust of prior visions, learned with experience. Armed with the insightful talent of Stephen Lockhart (Sinmara, Svartidauði, Tchornobog) in achieving their sound and the surprising power of session drummer Tho (Unholy Throne, ex-Nightmare) this great transcendence of forms is an unfailing storm of pensive thought, inspiring vastness, and a great leap beyond to witness. Though it comes on the heels of equally fastidious works from Drastus and Sinmara there is something entirely different and perhaps even more thrilling about the distinction that comes with Akrotheism‘s obscure patternation. The freely thrust complexities of Naas Alcameth (Bestia Arcana, Nightbringer) appear as kin to the second wave classicist attack of Akrotheism but there is a psychotropic activation of forms within ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ that points towards Schammasch, Serpent Noir, Ved Buens Ende, and even some of their native Greek historical scene (Acherontas V. Priest guests on one song, even). Of course the fluidity of the Icelandic scenic take on French orthodoxy is present but with an entirely different set of tonal parameter and song structures in place. What might appear to be a disastrous melange in description is actually a masterpiece of modern black metal in motion.
“Typhonian Serpents” is a cosmic moment, an adrenaline surge from the wailing Emperor-esque lead guitar trails and a escape from the gravity of existence within Aeon‘s incredible vocal performances. There is the immediate sense that an ambition is realized therein, that Akrotheism achieve an introduction so immaculate and energetic that few bands could live up to for the rest of the hour. “Desmotropia” is another instant highlight that should remind of Funeral Mist‘s signature dynamic as much as it does the Deathspell Omega influenced hordes of today. I begin to space out and trail away from the album when the two shortest tracks (“Oracle Mass”, “En”) as their purpose is largely atmospheric in an album already soaked in some of the most massive drapery of its time. Though I appreciate the method of book-ending the standout 12+ minute epic “Skeptomophes” the song itself features its own respite near the mid-point and the full listening experience could have done without at least one of the two atmospheric pieces. Otherwise ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ is a top of the line black metal release that carries modern significance and technique while still sounding like its own entity. The balanced ‘roughness’ inherent to the full-listen should be easy to appreciate but the pieces themselves aren’t necessarily accessible. There weaves a complex string of forms within each extended piece, which range from roughly seven to nine minutes on average.
For my own taste in black metal this latest Akrotheism release is exactly the full package in terms of what I want from black metal in 2019; Coveted album art, complex forms, atmospheric direction, fluid songwriting, and performances of inspirational violence throughout. With this criteria in mind ‘Law of Seven Deaths’ receives what is likely my highest recommendation for a black metal release this month. For preview I’d suggest the two tracks that initially drew me in for a closer listen, “Typhonian Serpents” and “Skeptomophes”.
Portae tenebris. 4.75/5.0
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