“Ritualistic” is a not a word naturally paired with blasting percussion, frenzied riffs and howling vocals, but it has recently become de riguer for black metal bands to promote themselves as such. Frankly I blame Behemoth and their overuse of the word, though I have no idea what’s ritualistic about Nergal prancing about on Instagram with his cock out.
Akolyth are a Belgian outfit with a raw sound and aesthetic which harks back to the nineties, applied with their own twist. Each of the four songs on this debut album hover around the nine-minute mark, though it is unclear if this is by accident or design. This constant is more in line with my own understanding of the word “ritualistic”; following a process, yet achieving a different outcome each time the ritual is repeated.
The songs veer between slow focused passages, and chaotic blasting with discordant riffing that hooks the listener. The vocals are reverb-drenched tortured howls, and subtle choral synths underscore the tremolo-picked guitar riffs, this feature is most evident on final track “To Become His Doorway”. There are no polished faux-atmospheric intros or interludes on this album, as the sparing application of discordance and switches between tempo are enough to convey the sinister atmosphere that permeates this album.
This unpolished production nonetheless displays progressive tendencies, albeit without flamboyance or outlandish experimentation, which makes for solid, focused song composition. In stark contrast to this contemporary era of meticulously applied greasepaint worn by over-polished pretenders to the (dark)throne, Akolyth have crafted an authentically cold and dangerous sounding album that expresses a sense of genuine evil.