Back in 2015, blast-master David Gray unleashed ‘The Antichrist Imperium’ with former Akercocke guitarist Matt Wilcock. An awesome piece of avant-garde death/black metal utilizing the remnants of what would have been Ak’s 6th album. But now that the mighty Akercocke are back in the game with last year’s brilliant ‘Renaissance in Extremis’, this second album by The Antichrist Imperium crew is free to be judged on entirely its own merits…and the merits are plenty…

Back again with Wilcock, vocalist Sam Loynes (Voices, Shrines, Akercocke) and Sam Bean (The Berzerker, The Senseless), David Gray is on top form, and once again fully blasting for Satan.

Frantic death metal is the order of the day, but of course with this lot, expect the unexpected.

The Megadeth vibe of opener ‘The Dreadful Hosanna’ kicks things off, demonstrating the vocal interplay between Loynes and Bean, and the superb solos and shredding from Wilcock.

“Praise Satan!” Indeed!

Such impressive fret-burning settles into some great grooves on ‘Death Ritual’, with the “werewolf” vox taking centre stage, and the schizophrenic ‘Draw Down the Moon’ incorporates clean guitars, spoken word, and even a piano break into its maelstrom of noise fury.

Melody reigns with a strong performance from Sam Loynes on the more chord based ‘Liturgy of the Iconoclast / Blood Sacrifice’, allowing the record to catch a breath before inevitable blast-off. And it’s these twists and turns that are the albums trump card.

‘Ceremonial Suicide Rites’ is in turns jarring and frenzied, but still manages to take another direction towards the end, and ‘Golgothian Hieros Gamos’ features yet more fiery fret action, marrying death growls with classical guitars.

The surprisingly tangy bass and drum stabs and nihilistic sense of ‘Sermon of Small Faith’ provides the ideal closer.

“Is it all over now?” …Yes, for the time being, but hopefully The Antichrist Imperium are here to stay.

‘Vol. II’ may lack some of the immediacy of its predecessor, but its brutal and uncompromising nature is wonderfully arrogant and forcefully driven, and The Antichrist Imperium can justifiably stand as a prime exponent of some of the best experimental and extreme metal as you are likely to encounter this year.

(9/10 Stuart Carroll)