Stalwarts of mysticism and Hellenic blackness Acherontas should really need no introduction to the initiated. Led with unswerving passion by V Priest since formation in 2007 they have a plethora of releases to their name and ‘Psychic Death’ sees them releasing their, slightly delayed due to modern plagues, 8th studio album. One thing is very quickly evident and that is the follow up to 2018’s Faustian Ethos is well and truly worth the wait. In fact, it has been on constant rotation for the last week or so here and I can’t see that changing at any point soon. To think we almost got to see them in London before the walls came crashing down on things makes this all the more anticipated. Curses have been spat aplenty in the direction of a dodgy promoter who scuppered our chances of seeing the band live.
You can take the orthodox trappings and deeper meanings within the album to heart if thou shalt wish, as the label states this group have always been about the “mysticism, magic, occult arts and rituals” of it all and firmly walk the left hand path and thematically delve into the psyche and flames of rebirth here. Of course, you can just enjoy the music too and that starts in a fierce and uncompromising fashion via ‘Paradigms of Nyx’ with a couple of ritualistic triangular summonings and what sounds like an offering of a backbone being crunched before everything piles in with whirlwind ferocity. There’s stacks of dark melodicism here and an angry fury from V Priest’s dictatorial clamour. The musicianship of the quintet is tight and it feels like they have been let loose to blaze away with fury as the dark mage spits fire. “I am eternal” he barks over the lethal tempest as guitar solos spiral out and the drums drive the tempo with furious precision. The barked out spoken parts and atmospheres here are superb, draping the listener is mysterious forbidden knowledge and the stomping groove behind it all totally infects. As an opening statement this really does blow you away and the good news is that the rest of this 55-minute album follows firmly in the footsteps of what has been set up. Romping into ‘Kiss The Blood’ the chalice is proffered and the inverted communion is full of gory glory. It’s not all about the speed as this sermon takes on eerie atmospherics amidst the fury and the chants peel out unleashing dread and death at every twist and turn. Words can occasionally be picked out “here lies my kingdom” hollers the frontman as he sips deep and observes it all, pausing as ominous organ work peels away in the background. Shrill fiery tremolo guitar work and thick meandering bass paves the way and a corvine cry sees ravens or crows swooping in like a prophecy of dread.
Songs are generally packed full of adventure and lovers of the Hellenic groove will find themselves following mesmerising passages as things flow along. The George Emmanuel mix and master is superb here and every note sounds perfectly replicated. ‘The Brazen Experimentalist’ could well be a tale of a search for the secrets of alchemy and the madness induced in such a quest. It really scorches the ears at the very least with some fiery licks and massive bursts of rugged speed. By comparison ‘Psychic Death “The Shattering of Perceptions”’ goes down a route that is steeped more in a near gothic grandeur; slower, mesmerizing and full of grace as the vocalist settles back and intones his parts in spoken word fashion, linguistics behind making them all the more mysterious. The sinuous ‘Coiled Splendour’ begins to unravel drawing the listener in before venomously rearing up and suddenly striking, slow poisoning bringing madness with it and a huge clang of a gong booming out ominously. There’s plenty of scope here for the musicians to enrich things with long atmospheric passages and some classic guitar melodies leaving the listener pretty much transfixed and in awe before the gloomier poisoned intro of ‘The Offering of Hemlock’ infects and more madness is unleashed to coarse through the veins.
I knew this was going to be a spectacular album on very 1st play and as more mysteries have unveiled themselves on successive listens my fervour has grown and I know that this is going to definitely be an album of the year contender. Keeping up the flow through the at times diabolical and at others sublime ‘Sermons Of The Psyche’ all good things have to come to an end. The book is closed via ‘Magick of Mirrors’ which unveils itself via a poignant mood of reflection and perhaps enlightenment too. Fantastic stuff!
(9/10 Pete Woods)