With the flesh of the fingers torn away by carrion obsessed birds, with teeth shattered from jaw and pulled from this forever unidentified corpse long crushed under the wheel of a wealthier and seemingly more clever man, anonymity wields great meaning and mysterious power to an otherwise dead body. Bound by no pine box or sanctimonious ritual to fend off mortal existential dread (or sickness), those whose uncared-for flesh is melted away publically by maggots and scavengers, boiled by the sun and swamp as gaseous offense toward the nostrils of superior upturned noses, offers sacrificial testament to the unspoken curses humanity would cast upon themselves in treating one death differently than another. A death among many uncounted is mounting worship, a pile of unspoken soul-blackening prayers to fill crypts with unresolved imbalance, dark magick that would forever serve its own perpetual spread. Bury the unnamed bones with their worm-filled, diseased flesh and build spectacular ruins in the wake of barbarian cruelty or, brace for a new world that man cannot witness — Where the ruins themselves are our screaming skeletons, each monument of suffering captured on their knees and begging for a quick death. Who will serve as the acolyte to assist all bones to their rightful dust as a helper unto dark passage? They will exist beyond names or titles, they will cleanse the corpse of humanity of its curses with fire, and their wraith-like screams will sound something akin to the cult Akolyth — An unknown, uncounted, unnamed, raw black metal ritual projection of extremes who’d account for all of the lost, cursed, and crushed beneath the wheel within their spiraling fathomless madness.
For the sake of shaping the shapeless into sense some amount of hunch and hoax is necessary to figure where exactly Akolyth and their mythical silent selves divine from. The name itself is simply acolyte in German, though there are several cultures that’d pull from roman catholic terminology and also speak/read German. ‘Akolyth’ was recorded in Brussels at Opus Magnum Studios which’d naturally suggest some Déhà involvement, likewise opening up the possibilities to Bulgarian musicians as well as Belgium. At this point that is specific enough for me as the vocals will begin to reveal some familiar personality on the third of four 9+ minute tracks, “What Dwells Between Fractured Worlds”. From there the mystery fades beyond a few more assumptions yet none of it’ll matter when entranced by the music itself as Akolyth is not particularly humane or persona-rich black metal, it is a droning death-worshiping beast of raw but not entirely abrasive black metal that demands the listeners resignation immediately. Some knowledge of revisionist raw sects and the wily grooves of early 90’s black metal that drive ‘Akolyth’ is necessary for entry so, access is limited, but those who’re intended will arrive upon a warm nest of perilously acquired old and raw bones to curl up with.
Beyond the obvious third and fourth Darkthrone albums, ‘666’-era Katharsis, and the first Ungod album there is some work achieved within ‘Akolyth’ that’ll translate well with fans of more ‘modern’ acts such as the often more mid-to-fast paced push of Craft on their ‘Fuck the Universe’ album as well as the German underground’s far more raw Vargsang. The implication therein is a semblance of early 90’s black metal in its most dryly repetitive and brutally cut movements that eases a few sharper riffs in between the raw black metal meanderings of today. Each of the songs being roughly nine minutes makes for a well balanced but less distinct full listening experience where each track has its glorious highs just as often as they feature mundane repetition but, this is where raw black metal has evolved (or, failed to depending whom you ask) and I can appreciate the effect that repetition creates; “To Become His Doorway” notably uses just a few riffs in slight variation to conjure a truly effective trance-like state for those inclined. If this all sounds a bit dry, consider that the direction taken within each of these four songs embodies the old ways completely in the sense that “simple but effective” must include sinister, unfeeling, and malevolent notions.
Though there is some small thrill to be had inducting oneself into the overall experience of ‘Akolyth’ and learning the bits of genius within the minutiae of all four pieces Akolyth‘s debut blasts through its ~37 minute length without leaving a major dent or notable personification of its themes of passage, transcendence, dimensional rift egress. Taken as a ‘genre entry’ and set next to similar works it appears soft-balled in some respects, sauntering rather than attacking, devotional rather than possessed, and ultimately an intimate ‘riff’ album more than it is an assault on the senses. “The Night, The Fog” certainly does embody its title and justifies its length with strong and pure black metal eccentricity a la ‘Translyvanian Hunger’ perhaps justifying that gentler attack with nuance. “A Work of Ages” providing the anchor and the remedy to cure me of the tabula rasa felt when firing up this album over and over, its suggestion is that the entirety of ‘Akolyth’ is built upon textural black metal riffing, chilling vocals, and auld atmospheric values — Which, despite the distant warmth of the recording, ends up being highly effective if not somewhat plainly presented. I’d actually appreciate the ’90-’94 laze of it all and occasionally dug the n’ roll’d flux of certain sections though I’ll continue to wonder where the suggestions of the “beyond” lead. Despite enjoying where I had been, nothing I’d discover wasn’t already known. As a piece built upon texture and iteration Akolyth‘s debut persists with an inventive strength and as a result each piece contains a memorable and repeatable highlight that pushes things along nicely. Because I found myself listening for hours and understanding little more the pleasure of the experience I can confidently give a moderately high recommendation for ‘Akolyth’ as a fine debut.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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