Acherontas-Ma-IoNIf the last Acherontas album was ambitious in its scope, then this is on another level altogether. Amenti saw Acherontas spreading their leathery wings in ever more promising directions with some solid occult-laden black metal bathed in a backdrop of vivid, cinematic sound. Enough to transport you into the deserts and ancient cities of another world even if its hour-long journey occasionally risked letting its blood-soaked grip on your attention loosen as you wandered off down blind alleys of your own making. But while Ma IoN is even longer than its predecessor it feels like it is once again tightening that grip with renewed vigour. It also feels like a return to an older style of Acherontas, taking everything that was built on Amenti with its sunburnt light, but then dragging it all into the dark, unnatural shade.

Ma IoN is a raft of even more grimly striking tracks nestled between, uneasy pitch-black atmospherics. It’s as if the whole project has slipped down another level further towards the depths of whatever hell band mastermind Acherontas V Priest and his growing band of regular occultists are planning to end up in. He’s joined this time round by members of bands like Nightbringer, Abigor, Malign, Black Seas of Infinity, Emme Ya, and Tatir, and there is so much going on in here it’s easy to understand that all those contributions made this into a more coherent whole. Kicking off with a cleanly sung incantation and followed with a low slung, discordant and bass weighted guitar riffs that sets the tone for the rest of the album. The ritual undertones on Amenti have now soaked through into the rest of the tracks which have more or less become distorted but hypnotising stage settings for an unsettling 70-minute incantation. The rasping vocals are still the in abundance but some of the tracks, like The Awakening of Astral Orphic Mysteries are led with an ominous spoken word ritual while the pressure builds throughout with fierce blast beats and the wailing tremolo and solo guitars.

The production is more distorted than Amenti and takes us back to the Ruins of Edom split with Nightbringer or even the previous full-length Vamachara. I should also point out for the benefit of the impatient among us that these guys are once again in no hurry. Blast beat addicts or anyone who likes the music to do all the talking without effects and keys, this is probably not for you. This is high concept and that means tracks regularly clock in at around 10 minutes each. But, to be honest, it’s then that is in part where Ma IoN really takes off. Drawn out breaks of eerie effects and a trance of steady percussion and smoky sounds accounts for a good 11 minutes across two tracks and culminating in Shaman and the Waning Moon. Ma IoN is as close as you are going to get to stumbling upon a sinister ritual to find black clad figures and unspeakable acts. In between all the ambient soft furnishings, there is some pretty exquisite black metal tracks that are as serpentine as the name of the album suggests.

The final four tracks are when things all begin to bind together into the occult-drenched finale, inextricably linked as they are. From The Awakening to Therionic Transformation and final track Orgiastic Feast of Flesh, Beheld Thine Vicissitude, it’s then you realise that, like the wonderfully sinister and epic Amenti, that even when your attention momentarily drifts elsewhere, you’re still wrapped in the cloak that Acherontas has created. Acherontas is beginning to make its mark at the front ranks of Greek black metal, growing in scope with each full length and meanwhile firing out some pretty indispensable EPs as it goes. Ma IoN is another great album with huge ambition that pays off almost without betraying the huge effort that clearly went into it – but, at this point, who would expect anything different.

(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)