The Antichrist Imperium have been together for eight years now, and due to committing their time with other established acts during this time (Akercocke, The Bezerker and Voices amongst others), are now only releasing their second album Volume II – Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan. David Gray, one of the most underrated drummers in extreme metal along with the exceptional Matt Wilcock on guitar have kept their bond in their time together in Akercocke strong and forged an unholy alliance in The Antichrist Imperium.
I have stated in many reviews before that one thing that I love in a band is more than one vocalist and with Sam Bean taking care of growling and Samuel Loynes taking care of the melodic and clean vocals, this will be a sure-fire winner for me. Their self-titled debut album was good and largely unnoticed by the metal masses, so it took three years for the band to rehearse, record and rehearse again until they achieved the sound that they had envisioned for the band. For the record, this album is huge in every way and once again raises the flag for UK extreme metal.
Opener “The Dreadful Hosanna” starts off at a fast pace with twisting riffs from Matt and thunderous and frantic drumming from David Gray. It’s this combination that makes the opening section stunning and when the almost audible growls from Sam come in, I was in awe of their blackened death metal at its finest. There is no doubt that Matt is an accomplished guitarist and has now been given the artistic freedom to create the music that he wants to unleash. This is shown in the number of solos and time changes throughout the song, creating an atmosphere of sheer class musicianship. Clean vocals from Samuel interspersed throughout culminates in the final piece of the jigsaw for this song and indeed every song on the album. His vocals add that spark, making the composition complete.
“Death Ritual” starts off with a chilling spoken word intro ending in “My purpose is to bring death” which ultimately leads to a much darker death metal song compared to the opener. Vocalist Sam goes much deeper with his performance in this one and after a minute in, it made me immediately think of “Oblivious to Evil” by Deicide. It’s only when we get past the first couple of verses that the atmosphere lifts ever so lightly. Matt’s riffs are incredibly fast in the middle and you would swear that there were two guitarists, but when he also kicks in with his precise and intricate solos, you realise how much of an unsung hero this guy is. You have to hear the speed of the riff at four minutes in to believe it. It must be the fastest I have ever heard.
Compared to the previous track, “Draw Down the Moon” is a much mellower piece of art. Sam is not as powerful in his growls and manages to match the atmosphere created by Matt and David. I did not want to mention it before now but there can be hints of Akercocke amongst songs, and out of the three openers, this one shows the biggest influence. The clean vocals of Samuel are reminiscent of what Jason can do, but Samuel more than puts his own authority on this. There are a number of ambient passages and melancholic atmospheres which show the band’s strength of creating a building up of tension for the listener. It’s only towards the end that the pace picks up again with thrash style riffs and David just blasting away at the snare to the extent that I feel sorry for his drum.
“Liturgy of the Iconoclast Sacrifice” showcases for the first time the clean vocals from Samuel to the forefront of the music and highlights what an exceptional singer that he is. This could be seen as almost a ballad for the band before once again the solo from Matt brings a change in tempo to the song, dragging it back into blackened death metal territory. Growls from Sam are once again summoned from the bottom of his lungs and near-blast beats from David, and clear bass from Sam give this song a stunning ending.
“Ceremonial Suicide Rites” starts off in a similar fashion to its predecessor but reaches the faster elements much more quickly. The most progressive riffs on the album are within this song, interspersed with classic death metal vocals and atmosphere. Furious blast beats one second from David suddenly stop, replaced with clean vocals and intricate riffs the next, highlighting the diversity The Antichrist Imperium can come up with.
“Golgothian Hieros Gamos” hits you in the face so hard making a statement that there has been enough of the lighter material, and furious blast beats and riffs (that must set Matt’s strings on fire) blast out the speakers. There are the intricate parts where it gives the listener the opportunity to breathe, but for the most part the listener is subjected to frenzied but controlled expert musicianship. You really can’t get any better than this when it comes to mixing different styles and genres of music. Black metal style riffs mixed with death and guttural growls definitely work well together here to create a highlight of the album.
“Sermon of Small Faith” starts with a Primus-esque bass intro, which confused these ears, mixed with some dark ambience in the background before it twists into more of a death/black metal affair. I would say that there is less of the diversity in this song, especially when compared to the previous track, which in no way suggests this is a bad song. “Sermon…” is simply more restricted, for example in terms of the drumming, than the others and still has its eclectic moments and is still a very good song to end this hugely impressive album.
With Volume II, The Antichrist Imperium have once again kept the UK extreme metal flag flying high. They invoke an atmosphere of mystery, dread and evil which has been lacking for so long. The Antichrist Imperium show how diverse the extreme metal genre can be, but they do it with class and stellar musicianship that some bands strive towards but who simply lack this level of talent. Every member of this band are at their creative peak when it comes to this record and they all should sit back and take every compliment that comes their way. Good luck on trying to better it with Volume III which I await impatiently.
Volume II – Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan is out now
The Antichrist Imperium: facebook