This is the fourth album from symphonic black metal band Akroma, who I confess I didn’t know about before hearing this. A name on the list, which did strike me, was that of Dirk Verbeuren, drummer with Soilwork and the excellent melodic metallers Scarve, whose former vocalist is here too.

Straightaway I was struck by the progressive patterns of this forward-driving symphony of black metalness. It’s fun. The vocals are unusual. As well as the usual growls, there are the sounds of a strangulated cat in the style of Danny Filth and angelic choral sounds. Mr Screamo is at it again as we enter the lively “Offertorium”. I love the energy of this. There’s ghoulishness in the background of these rich metal patterns and symphonic and choral interruptions. The flow’s good, the metal’s dark and there’s bucketloads of intrigue and invention in the music. It’s theatre but of the ghastly kind. Enter the female Latin chants of course. But at the heart is thundersome melodic metal fare, which comes across like a story.

The start of “Sanctus” is vaguely reminiscent of Vesania but this is more flamboyant and we land more in the territory of Anorexia Nervosa and Carach Angren, but in a melodic way. The operatic voice comes in as the instrumentalists press on. It’s bizarre, grotesque, creative, French really as the song becomes ever more over the top. It’s great entertainment. The instrumentals are not to be ignored as they merrily dance in their dark and dramatic way. This album is moreover full of twists and turns. “Agnus Dei” starts with angelic choral voices before giving way to frantic black metal and then a brief reflective section and dramatic guitar work. The lady warbles angelically as the extravagant metal firepower continues. “Lux Aeterna” continues the curious mix of angelic tones, screams and driving metal. The lyrics match the epic nature of the music: “Scavengers in a plaintive scream buried in plumages infested with vermin forget themselves and wait for the end to come”. I’m not convinced the lyrics mean that much but it’s ok. What I liked was the irresistible surge of the music, punctuated by the Latin chants and operatic voice, which add a bit of culture to these frenetic proceedings.

The energy of this album reminded me a lot of two long-standing bands: Stormlord and Graveworm. As with them I found it worked better if I just enjoyed “Apocalypse” instead of trying to piece together all the elements and work out what it might be about. This album has plenty of elements. There’s symphonic metal with growls, angelic vocals, chants, growls and screams. What it all adds up to is an and imaginative and colourful album with powerful, malevolent and epic epic atmospheres.

(8/10 Andrew Doherty)