Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis (Review)

AkercockeThis is the sixth album from Akercocke, an extreme metal band from the UK.

If you aren’t familiar with Akercocke’s previous output, then I’m afraid to say that you’ve been missing out. Across their body of work they have released some absolutely fantastic songs, and have always been a particular favourite of mine. Their material always managed to combine muscular brutality with an esoteric refinement that was both sophisticated and base.

One of those rare bands that didn’t really sound like anyone else, and no-one really sounded like them, Akercocke have always been essentially true to themselves alone, and were their own masters pretty much from day one.

Well anyway, now they’re back, a decade after their last release, with a brand spanking new 54 minutes of death, black, progressive, experimental metal.

Where to start with an album like this? It should just be listened to, at loud volume, and absorbed as a whole. The Akercocke sound has always been one that’s multifaceted and layered, shifting and reinventing itself between songs as well as albums. I’m very pleased to say that this avant-garde, progressive approach to producing individualistic music is alive and well on Renaissance in Extremis.

Here we have blasting brutality; there we have resplendent melodies; here we have dissonant darkness; there we have progressive soundscapes; here we have crushing riffs;, there we have subtle shading and emotive complexity; here we have classic molten metal; there we have neoclassical workouts. The list goes on and on, always done with the highest of quality levels in mind, and always with a sense of coherent songwriting and superior skill.

This is a band that continue to develop and refine their art, of course, so if you’re familiar with their other material then this is the next evolution of that. The band’s core of blackened death metal is still intact, but the progressive, experimental, and avant-garde explorations of the latter pre-breakup days have intensified and now form an even greater part of their sound. In case you’re in any doubt, this is a very good thing.

I love that the band haven’t just rehashed older material, and instead have pushed their creative genius even further. It’s almost ridiculous how good this album actually is. For a band to essentially disappear for a decade or so and return with some of their strongest material to date…well, it doesn’t happen very often. Let’s hope that there’s not as large of a gap between this and whatever they do next, as Renaissance in Extremis is nothing short of stunning.

Akercocke stand apart from almost everyone in extreme metal, and having them back is very exciting indeed. You need to listen to this.

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