Penetrating the increasingly esoteric world of Acherontas V Priest and his various collaborators is becoming a bit of an adventure – albeit one that is bleak and unforgiving. The outfit undoubtedly made its initial impact with some impressive occult-driven black metal with unashamedly good, hook-filled and Eastern-infused trips on the first three albums. But they’ve always had the knack for digging down into more challenging depths and on recent releases the band has pushed its way even further underground with some increasingly interesting releases that shun the band’s more accessible (it’s all relative) appeal and have replaced it with ever more of the introverted, reptilian charm. Gone is the outright fury that was even still present on Amenti, to be replaced with an all the more intriguing approach to weaving the Acherontas spell that is driving the band down its own path.

As the name of the album suggests, Amarta is the second part of the band’s Formulas of Reptilian Unification. The first was the band’s most ambitious to date, which from a band used to clocking in albums over an hour and shrugging off the usual song and album structures, is saying something. The problem was always going to be where do you go from here, for a band that is known for celebrating the conceits of black metal but also extremely good at execution (the production on this is in itself sublime – and befitting of the band’s ambitions) and at carving its own ritualistic path. The answer is here and it’s certainly not straightforward. On some level’s Amarta goes even further into the realms of the esoteric and could even be described as mellow in the use of many of its tones, the hypnotic effect of that Nightbringer-style, organic lead guitar, and the gradual dive into oblivion that follows.

Unsurprisingly, Nightbringer’s Naas Alcameth is a contributor here, among many others (Scorpios Androctonus from Crimson Moon is a permanent member too). But unlike the last Nightbringer album, this is not a release to blast open the doors of your mind – more to weave a spell that slowly prises them open and seeps inside. On one level there is undoubtedly work to be done here – little is delivered up on a platter and this is probably not one for anyone who likes their black metal laced with soaring riffs and blast beats. Acherontas prefers to draw in various strands of black metal producing something unpredictable but which also packs a punch. But at the same time, if you let it and if you can suspend any issues you have with accented, spoken word liturgy, this whole album may very well wash right over you in the finest possible way.

The first track gives a nod to the classic Acherontas atmospherics, and yes, there is rage in here in the form of Schism of Worlds and which rears up in other parts. But beyond that a track by track is pretty pointless. By the middle of the album, the mastery Acherontas has over its own particular blend of metal is already at work creating something timeless and which offers ever mutating, dark atmospheres. The final four tracks then slide into a blackened, foreboding dirge as the band slips its musical tentacles inside your brain and then drag your sub consciousness inside their otherworldly landscape. This is an impressive slab of ritualistic black metal that delivers ever more with repeated listens at the genius of Acherontas takes form. The more I listen, the more the power of Amarta penetrates. .

(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)