Review by Jason Guest
Album artwork can be deceptive at times. Some look great, are breath-taking even, and then you press play and risk it all. Unaware of what may betide, either a seemingly unending stream of faecal matter is about to spew forth, or the gateway to abhorrent ecstasy will stand agape and we are to be subsumed into an ocean of exquisite agony. Bright and colourful, enigmatic calligraphy and symbolic imagery, and a bare-breasted lady with dragon-silhouetted tentacles sprouting from her nether regions, Sunyata’s artwork doesn’t exactly scream darkness and dissent does it? But though it may appear more Grateful Dead than Greek black metal, what you see is what you get with Acrimonious’ second album.
Opening with the four-minute instrumental ‘Nexus Aosoth’, the deep, tranquil ambience of this piece serves to centre the listener, to deliver them to that place within where neither fire nor ice can bring them harm. Isolated and intensely aware, we are then subjected to the frosted ire of ‘Lykenia Hekate’, a track whose sprawling eight minutes combines fiery riffs charged with black metal menace with the acidic lacerations of a demonic vocal and melodic lead work. Five minutes in and an organ emerges from out of the fire for a surprisingly ceremonial interlude before a more progressive section draws the track to a soaring climax. Maybe a little flamboyant for a band that calls themselves ‘Typhonian black metal’ but the tracks grandeur brings the artwork’s meaning into view. With ‘Adharma’ – a Hindu word opposed to dharma that loosely translates as “irreligiosity” – the blackened barrage embodies the destructive powers of the creator of the universe, i.e., woman, and from the brief choral mantra that closes the piece through to the close of the album, the ritualistic aspect of Sunyata emerges ever-stronger.
While the album continues to cross-breed the occult with Buddhism, Hinduism and Egyptian mythology amid the scorched fervour of black metal, some of the tracks tend to go on for too long, a minor gripe considering the fortitude inherent in the ornate structures. Yet with artwork that suggests that what lies within would be something perhaps not wholly unique but at least stimulating enough to warrant its fifty four minutes, Sunyata falls a little short of delivering the depths that the artwork and its concept promise. The album thrives on variation designed to comply with its ambitious vision and its success lies in the fact that its opaque ferocity and virulent melodies – particularly of closing track ‘Black Kundalini’ – manifest the albums concept and the dark, female energies that these esoteric shamans summon lingers long after Sunyata closes.
The production well balanced between the raw and the polished, the instruments all have their place in the mix and the full force of Sunyata’s transcendental intent is effectively conveyed. One blessing is that amid the very harshness of guitars, drums and vocals, the bass can be heard and so Akhkhar’s remarkable lines enhance the experience and the album is much the richer for it. With repeat plays, it becomes increasingly and rapidly apparent that there is much beneath its colourfully abrasive surface. Open the gates and prepare yourself.
7 out of 10
- Nexus Aosoth
- Lykania Hekate
- Glory-Crowned Son of the Thousand-Petalled Lotus
- The Hollow Wedjat
- The Sloughed Scales of Separation
- Vitalising the Red-Purple in Ishet Zenunim
- Black Kundalini