In recent months, I have covered a large number of French extreme metal bands that should be grabbing your attention, namely Mercyless, Defenestration, Savage Annihilation and Epitaphe. Therefore, when a list of albums for review came up, I knew I would have a safe bet with French band Autokrator. Autokrator spawned in the year 2014 and are already on their third album, this time being released through fellow countrymen Krucyator Productions. Hammer of the Heretics is the title of their third album and one look at the front cover should tell you what to expect from this band. This is extreme metal at its very best and I cannot wait for you all to hear it if you dare.
Before I start this review, the first thing you should do is look at the front cover and see that this is not for the faint of heart. It truly is a masterful piece of art but should give heed as to what comes next. Autokrator are now basically a two piece band consisting of Loic F taking care of all things instrument-wise and American vocalist David Bailey spewing forth his venom, with guest drummer Kevin Paradis pummelling his drum kit.
Starting off with “Against Flesh and Blood”, a song that I have had on repeat listens for a while now as it’s just simply incredible. The atmosphere is as dark as you can get, much in the vein of two of my favourite bands, Ævangelist and Portal.
The guitar riff and sound courtesy of Loic F at the beginning is so effective mixed with the double bass of veteran drummer Kevin. It’s when vocalist David steps in with his haunting, disgusting and horrendous vocals that the track really takes off. Blast beats are the order of the day but there is so much atmosphere in the song that it’s hard for me to type this review, as I can’t stop banging my head to it. For me though, it’s the second half which I appreciate the most. When it’s slowed down, the song is at its most powerful. I have it on repeat so much due to this. It’s so memorable for all the right reasons, everything just fits into place. For the doom death metal fan, this is exactly what you want to hear and it’s superb.
“La Sung Impur” starts off with a heavy sounding bass before the drumming gets things all Morbid Angel-esque and vocals get this track off at a blistering speed again. Autokrator like to mess with your head and the speed of the riffs and blast beats are huge. The riffs are not overly technical, just thick, crunchy and punishing although they are a bit low in the mix. I think the sound is perfect as the vocals are elevated to enhance the grim music that the band are trying to portray. This is not music for the faint hearted. Reminiscent of Portal and Ævangelist, the only thing that separates them is David’s unique vocals. Another storming track from Autokrator which ends in a whole minute of horrifying screams of torture and anguish and I certainly wouldn’t have liked to have been the victim.
“Interlude” is, as the title suggests, the calm before the storm, where Autokrator couldn’t make an interlude scarier if they tried. Do not listen to this in the dark. “Hammer of the Heretics” starts off reminding the listener how extreme Autokrator can be with intense drumming from Kevin and riffs that must set LF’s guitar strings on fire as they are that fast. The sound and heaviness of the bass in the opening minute is just brilliant, before it slows down and builds the tension for what lies ahead. More blast beats and riffs from the depths are the order of the day. David just sucks you in and draws you closer to the speakers to listen to the full horror. Drummer Kevin must get a special mention here as the relentless speed of his delivery is non-stop and he makes blast beats sound tame in comparison and his frenetic double bass is a lesson for some. The last couple of minutes bring out their doomier side with the slowed down guitars and David sounding as deep as he can go, making this a stellar end to this song.
The final chapter of this album is “Inquisitio-Denunciato-Exceptio” and it is by far the slowest of the tracks on offer here with riffs that once again sound incredible. With this number I feel Autokrator are at their most, dare I say it, groovy. Think of early Warmaster’s Bolt Thrower era and you would not be far off. This is one for the moshers out there in the live environment where head banging is the order of the day. Excellent riffs from Loic F, especially towards the end of the song backed by Kevin’s powerful double bass and intricate drumming put together by David’s demonic voice. This is a fitting tribute to end this album.
Autokrator with this, their third album, may have finally found the sound that they have been looking for and it will be interesting to see where they go next. Another excellent band from France to take a chance on and from the first listen, you know you will not be disappointed. I have to say that I think this is one of the scariest albums I have ever listened to. I dare you to look past the cover art, which is fascinating, and slap it on the turntable.
Hammer of the Heretic is out now