“rode, caper, vitem: tamen hinc, cum stabis ad aram, in tua quod spargi cornua possit erit.” Ovid, Fasti
Censor Perpetuus — The infectious reach of charismatic martyrdom and the politically incensed writings of a few key ancient historians grant us ‘ready outsized brutality and statistically specious visions of religious persecution by the hand of ancient Rome’s Flavian dynasty, an exaggeration of well-justified, lawful action by dutiful imperators who’d lead the empire to great economic success during this period. For thousands of years each generation has studied this thickly smeared propagandization as if it were literature written to the temporal scale of Tolkien-style high fantasy, a plight to suffer for the underdog of ages. Though this may have permanently distorted the sadistic self-assurances of unwashed believers throughout the generations since, most reasonable folks today agree what atrocities might’ve occurred against “them” are retroactively warranted for the sake of any effort to bung up the spread of the Christian illness and prevent the slow-burning demise of present day Earth, for which the enemies of the empire are indisputably responsible. Rome is yet eternally aflame as we approach this fourth full-length by way of Autokrator, a black/death metal project from Montpellier, France-based musician Loïc.F (N.K.V.D., Krucyator Productions), that which we could describe as a volume which explores the violence and punishment rained upon deserving Christians under the Roman Empire when the religion was originally, and rightfully, considered a devious apocalyptic cult. ‘Persecution‘ is itself an unveiling, a depiction of violence that whips itself free of the explosive murk that’d choked the bestial violence of past releases only to reveal a martial form of molten-groovin’ and very mildly blackened death metal beneath.
Returning to the Néstor Ávalos-inked aesthetic of the first two albums shouldn’t suggest that Autokrator have set sights upon perpetual iteration with this fourth, though this is my favorite of the three images. In fact ‘Persecution’ shakes off much of the project’s previous signature self-rendered chaos and noisome conjurations by presenting this bout of Autokrator‘s bestial black/death clobber without obscuration beyond a warm and too-tall pillar of distortion. This should be of note if you’d enjoyed the similarly dynamic mix/master he’d done for ‘Congregation Pestilence’ earlier this year. The endless halls of echoing death’s past are replaced by a relatively clean and present production standard, leaving some swamped-over and downtuned rupture to ensure death metal resonance but a complete reshaping of the project’s sound design nonetheless. In terms of riffs this isn’t the knife-to-ear revelation that ‘Ion’ was for Portal a few years back yet it does a fine job of unveiling the sinister voice of Autokrator beneath the frantically brutal and sloshing form black/death they are known for. With greater access to this generally atmospheric yet brutal form of blackened death metal we can not only examine the full presentation note-for-note but also experience the precision of session drummer Kevin Paradis (Benighted, Mithridatic) whom was a major selling point for the previous album ‘Hammer of the Heretics‘ (2018) as well as here. Much like ‘In Their Darkened Shrines’ the collision of elements sums greater than each parsed, wherein atmosphere and riffcraft are themselves dependent fusion delivered with the aggression of early 2000’s brutal/technical death. It makes for an imposing beast that is most effective in the moment rather than in reflective analysis.
Though only a couple of songs on the tracklist are all that memorable for my own taste they do appreciate well with time. The spectacle of the drum performances caught my ear first and skulled me but it was the guitar arrangements themselves that convinced ‘Persecution’ to stick in mind. In terms of brutal death metal conveying ancient styles of torture and capital punishment via a martial theme this’ll have to be left up to your own interpretation but I’d found a lot of the slow to mid-paced riffing (see: “The Great Persecution”) did a fine job of it without losing the ‘Onward to Golgotha’-esque crawls Krucyator does so well. I think Loïc.F and I are of similar age/generation because anyone who’d found their inauguration into death metal in the mid-to-late 90’s and early 2000’s and stayed engaged will appreciate the standard he aims for in terms of his guitar work — The forms of old classics haven’t evaporated from personal continuity, at least. I suggest this because the procession from “DCLXVI” into “Antechristus” provides a swarm-filled pit riff for roughly 14 minutes, acting as the centerpiece of the album and leaving the deepest impression between those two songs landing in a row. The nearly ten minute opus of “Antechristus” would end up being the one to consistently inspire a repeat on successive listens and is perhaps the most satisfyingly brutal yet immersive piece on the album for my own taste; This also echoes some of my favorite parts of the previous album wherein the second half of that record was similarly engaging.
Beyond that point, I’m sure the Nile reference I’d posited earlier came from the dune-sluicing grooves of “Caesar Nerva Traianus”, the apex of the action on ‘Persecution’ in general thanks to battleground sound effects and an extended mid-paced section of the song. This is ultimately where the full album ends as far as I’m concerned at the half hour mark since the last piece “Apocalypsis”, is a five minute reading of what seems to be a speech in Latin which goes on for a few minutes too long without a clear purpose beyond the suggestion of a revelation. It isn’t a great way to end the album from my point of view but perhaps only because I enjoy listening to the same album more than once in a row and this exit is a not a proportionate bookend to the full listen. I may not remember all that much about ‘Persecution’ beyond its excruciating depictions of gory Christian torture by the hand of our eternal imperium after spending quite a lot of time with the album but it is the go-to, prime Autokrator record in my mind from now on. A moderately high recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||November 5th, 2021|
|BUY & LISTEN:||Bandcamp|
Blackened Death Metal
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