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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Acolyte - Alta (2013)

Band: Acolyte
Country: Manchester, UK
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Mordgrimm

I don't even remember how I first heard of this album or why I decided to cover it to be honest. It just happened to be in the file where I keep albums I plan on reviewing and so I just put it into my Itunes library and decided to give it a spin to see what it even was. I have to say after that initial spin I was thrown for quite a loop.
The tag of being progressive has expanded in recent years, so, as much as I love the genre, even I have to be a bit cautious when approaching a band I have no prior history with. Most of the time, they pay off, sometimes they don't, this is one of the times it paid off. Like I said above, I just happened to find this in my library of files of things to review and decided to give it a spin and not remembering what it was at all, but that turned out to be a benefit when finally listening to this because this is a damn fine example of a good album. Acolyte manages to bring in some ideas that I didn't expect to hear, which is always a good thing in my book. As much as I love bands like Enslaved and Ihsahn, this band is coming at things from a pretty different angle. I'm sure progressive rock has had some sort of an influence on this band, but the ideas seem to be coming from places like stoner rock, shoegaze and/or dream pop, and death metal, among other places, which makes for a strange amalgamation of ideas. Granted, it is all nicely packaged inside of a tight black metal wrapping, but the riffing and atmospheric ideas give it more flavor than the typical black metal/progressive black metal record. While I do wish the vocals were a bit more varied, the main style is black metal wretches with the occasional death growl thrown in, but since this is the band's debut full-length I can let that slide. I only wish for that because the music is dynamic and is able to make use of softer sections but the vocals don't appear to be able to just yet.
With that being said, the band is still able to write parts that are more straightforward and direct. Most tracks on here have at least one section where it's just aggressive black metal, tremolo picking, screamed vocals, double-bass drumming, just direct and in your face. In that regard, I think that this band does have the ability to crossover and appeal to fans of more traditional, or at least more straightforward, kinds of black metal. It's not progressive enough to alienate the fans who only like their metal intense and aggressive yet, so those fans could certainly pick out something in here to like. I think it's also very possible that fans of death metal will be able to pick something out in here that is appealing to them as well for the very same reason.
Another reason I think I'm so taken with this record is the production. It feels very direct, like there wasn't a whole lot of reverb added to the instrumentation or mix after the initial tracking was done, which gives the record this very tense and somewhat uncomfortable closeness kind of vibe. Even when the band goes into cleaner sections, it still feels quite uneasy, which I liked, there aren't a lot of bands out there who go for this sort of production, most want a bigger and, at least in the case of black metal bands/records, more atmospheric and reverbed sound. I'm glad that this band didn't go for that because it does allow this record to stand out. For as much as I praise bands who are able to write songs that are tense and claustrophobic, it's getting hard to tell if that's genuine or not. I'm sure that for as many bands who actually do accomplish it because of their songwriting, there are just as many who create it because of engineering and production tricks. In the case of this band, because of the very unreverbed sound of this record, I can almost guarantee that theirs is an authentic tension.
I really enjoyed this, and it far surpassed any and all expectations I might have set for it. For a debut full-length I definitely cannot sing enough praises towards this band's songwriting, and hopefully future releases will see them only increase their versatility and sonic palette. Definitely check this record out if you are a fan of forward thinking black metal.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Leng, Sunrise, Epistle

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