TAIMention the word Akercocke to most fans of extreme metal, and you’ll see them gaze longingly into the distance, in remembrance of one of the most dynamic death metal bands of recent years.

A band that offered brutality, and a forward-thinking attitude, forged with a true understanding of Satanic philosophy. One of the few bands to have actually “walked the talk”.

The Ak didn’t so much split up, as slowly dissolve, and The Antichrist Imperium began gestation in 2010 between drummer David Gray and guitarist Matt Wilcock.

Whilst Gray’s band Voices have gone someway in filling the void of Akercocke’s non-existence, The Antichrist Imperium is now set to tie up the loose ends, and make a massive impact of it’s own.

Joining Gray and Wilcock is Sam Loynes (Voices) and The Berzerker’s Sam Bean, both providing the vocal assault. The initial reaction here, is that it seems a shame that two vocalists are needed in a role that would, at one time, be handled by a singular Jason Mendonça. Once the staggering results are revealed, that issue becomes somewhat of a moot point. Infact, Loynes’ approach is not too dissimilar from Mendonça’s, and the clean singing style is much in evidence on opening number ‘Elegy’, providing an effective counter-point to the death grunts on the albums most open and progressive track.

Rampaging beast ‘The Spiritual Rapist’ features one of many great solo’s from Wilcock, on surely the album’s catchiest song, and the thrash tendencies of ‘Desecrated Remains’ utilises the harsher vocals from Loynes and Bean’s grunt embellishments to devastating effect. ‘The Stiffening of Death’ proves that even through its quieter moments, ‘The Antichrist Imperium’ is always brilliantly underpinned by the kick of “Blast Vader”s restless feet. Here, the guitar solos really FLY, and there’s some wonderfully unnerving multi-layered black metal vocals.

A muted drum solo leads us into ‘Silhouette And Flame’, and then it’s full-pelt ahead with some high-tension riffing and some choice lyrics. (I’m pretty sure “Fill up every hole” is not a DIY reference.)

Track 6 is probably the most straight-ahead death metal tune on offer. It has a great “creeping” chug section, and it’s entitled ‘Kill For Satan’. ‘Nuff said.

‘Epitaph’ ties everything together, as its expansive and ever-switching nature makes it a fitting conclusion to the album, with its buzzsaw guitars giving way to a classical lead-out from 7 tracks of “Pure and unrelenting Satan worship”.

‘The Antichrist Imperium’ has it all. A devilish mix of death/black/speed and thrash metal. Shredding guitars…heart-stopping blasts…and diabolically good vocals, with enough inventive twists and turns to broaden its punch.

Does it put a final stamp on Akercocke’s legacy, or does it serve to continue it? Is this the end of something special…or the beginning? I certainly hope it’s the latter.

Whichever way, ‘The Antichrist Imperium’ is hands down, the best extreme metal release of the year. There, I’ve said it!

(10/10 Stuart Carroll)