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The HMO Guide to Akercocke

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Akercocke is out of the cage! The reunited satanic extreme metallers’ UK tour is underway at last, with the mighty The King is Blind in support. It’s easily the must-see gig of the year. I can’t wait to see them next week and, because I’m taking EvaOverload along, I decided to put together a beginner’s guide to the Ak on Spotify for her. And now I’ve decided to share it with you. Praise Beelzebub!

Although Spotify playlists have no limits I decided to keep my selection within a CD running time, coming in at 69mins. Akercocke’s debut album The Rape of the Bastard Nazarene is unavailable on Spotify so, sadly, I couldn’t include any of those early tracks. But the upside to that was that it made things a bit easier: even though I was only left with four studio albums to pick from, it was still a pretty tricky endeavour. Some crucial tracks like Horns of Baphomet, Praise the Name of Satan, My Apterous Angel and Seduced couldn’t make the grade. And the often lengthy nature of their songs made it tricky to stick within the time limit too.

So calling this the Best of Akercocke is a little bit of a stretch but I reckon it’s a great introduction for newbies. Even those normally reluctant to dive into such extreme waters will find much to enjoy here. There are flaying shredders like Of Menstrual Blood and Semen and Becoming the Adversary but there is also plenty of melody in tracks like A Skin for Dancing In and Axiom.  The epic, proggy side of Ak is given an airing in the classic Leviathan and the sublime Shelter From the Sand (Rush fans should check that one out). The Dark Inside and Son of the Morning show off the band’s euphoric stylistic range, the power of the riff compels you in Verdelet and Enraptured By Evil is just a flat-out battering. It’s all brilliant, essential stuff.

Here’s the track listing for those without Spotify. Hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think. You’ll be wearing a suit and summoning the Antichrist before you know it. And if you become a convert there’s still time to catch the band on their UK tour. Tell them HMO sent you.

  1. Of Mentrual Blood and Semen
  2. A Skin for Dancing In (from The Goat of Mendes)
  3. Leviathan
  4. Enraptured By Evil
  5. Son of the Morning
  6. Becoming the Adversary (from Choronzon)
  7. Verdelet
  8. Shelter from the Sand
  9. The Penance (from Words That Go Unspoken)
  10. Axiom
  11. The Dark Inside (from Antichrist)

The King is Blind – Our Father

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Am yer Da

The King is Blind’s superb debut album Our Father was released back in January and it’s still the album to beat if anyone out there wants to take the coveted HMO Album of the Year 2016 spot. It’s a smart concept album about Satan, Christ and the devil in mankind given an absolute drubbing by the band’s burly death metal hammering. The King is Blind cleverly avoid all the usual concept album excess though, bashing out their tale in ten songs that are all a riot in their own right. The variation in styles carry the narrative (death, thrashing hardcore, Monotheist-ic doom and black metal atmosphere) and the focus on excellent songwriting and riffs means the concept that can be enjoyed or ignored. If you want to curl up with the lyrics or just enjoy a cathartic extreme metal battering, Our Father works equally well. An impressive and notable debut. I can’t wait to see them live in October.

Buying Round-Up – Vinyl Special

Another batch of awesome albums rescued from the unloving clutches of my local Record Shops. This time it’s vinyl only: the LPs (and EPs) I bought during the May to July period. Black Metallers fear not! If the previous Black Metal Buying Special wasn’t enough to satisfy your wanton misanthropy there are a couple of legendary first-wavers here too.

Yngwie Malmsteen – Eclipse (£6 Record Fayre Glasgow)

I’ve been after this beauty for a while. There’s no Rising Force so I suppose that makes this his first “solo” record. It still has the Power Metal flavour of albums like Odyssey but it’s definitely getting slicker and more melodic with the Classical stuff less prevalent. Suits me. I love Göran Edman’s vocals, the songs are memorable and varied and there are still enough pedal-to-the-metal ragers and crazy axe solos to keep me happy.

Entombed – Hollowman FDR Edition (£13 Earache UK Webshop)

I have a terrible habit of buying Entombed vinyl and then never listening to any of it but I have actually listened to this one. Only once but still! It sounds fantastic: crushing Death N’ Roll. The guitar tones are absolutely mighty (anyone got a Boss HM-2 Pedal for sale?) I need to give this stuff the listening time it really deserves. Beautiful splatter vinyl with nice poster too.

Mercyful Fate – Mercyful Fate EP (£8 Missing Records Glasgow)

I was so delighted and surprised to find this beauty in the racks I almost let out a high-pitched scream of excitement. The first Mercyful Fate release on vinyl, I already have these four tracks on The Beginning CD but it’s great to have them on vinyl with that cover. Their style isn’t quite as fully realised here as it would be on their first full-length Melissa but it’s still a pretty startling debut release with its raging Diamond Head-style riffageddon and King Diamond’s unique vocals. Interesting that this has a Side A and a Side One. I guess that true Black Metal Nietzschean superheroes don’t have time for “B” Sides?

Wolfsbane – Live Fast Die Fast (£4 Love Music Glasgow)

After enduring Iron Maiden’s “Shite Years” with Blaze Bayley at the mic, it was a shock to find out that his prior band, Wolfsbane, were pretty awesome. I have since bought their single Ezy and the All Hell’s Breaking Loose Down at Little Kathy Wilson’s Place mini-album and thoroughly enjoyed them. This is their debut album, which was listed in Classic Rock magazine’s “Rick Rubin Buying Guide” as the “one to avoid”. Well, as you all probably know, Classic Rock really does talk out of its arse sometimes and this album is truthfully the best thing Rubin did that didn’t have Danzig written on it. Ever. Yes, I’m looking at you Slayer! A rip-roaring British take on Van Halen, this is my new favourite record. I am now officially a Howling Mad Shithead.

Tygers of Pan Tang – Wild Cat (£4 Love Music Glasgow)

Classic NWOBHM and one of the all-time great album covers. I’ve seen a lot of vinyl copies of this in the shops but they’ve always been dinged or damaged in some way. This copy was pristine and a good price too. Always found Jess Cox’s vocals a bit dicey but I’ve enjoyed hearing this one again, it’s an important addition to my ever-expanding NWOBHM library.

Humble Pie – Performance: Rockin’ the Fillmore (£7 Love Music Glasgow)

I’ve wanted a vinyl copy of this for some time. Pleased to find a copy at last and in decent nick considering its age. It’s one of those albums that work best on vinyl. I like how they’ve put the two long tracks on the same disc. The first disc has Side One and Side Four on it which threw me when I first put it on. Mercyful Fate would probably disapprove of Sides Two, Three and Four to be honest. I always knew the Pie were an influence on KISS (and their classic Alive! album in particular) but it really stood out to me hearing it this time. In fact, I believe Paul Stanley might have been in the audience at some of the performances here?

Bathory – Bathory (£13 Monorail Glasgow)

Black Metal’s ugly, screaming birth. Right here. Other bands like Venom and Hellhammer were obviously hugely influential and important but with this album, for the first time, Black Metal found its unique musical style. The imagery and crude bludgeon of Venom with the razor speed of Thrash and Quorthon’s rasping, shrieking vocals sealing the deal (with the Devil). The rain that kicks off the album lasts for an unsettling three or so minutes before the music even starts, the ominous opening signalling a Black Sabbath-style new beginning in Metal. Seismic. Interestingly I notice that Bathory, in keeping with their early-BM compatriots Mercyful Fate, also have no time for the loser notion of a Side B. Here we have a Side Darkness and Side Evil. Impressive. Most impressive.

*****

And that’s the lot. I’ll be back soon with some reviews and I’ll probably give it another few months before doing any more Buying Round-Ups. Hope you enjoyed the selection for the last few posts, I certainly did. Let me know what you think.

Buying Round-Up – Black Metal Special

Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make! There have been a few Black Metal releases finding their way into my shopping basket lately so I’ve decided to dedicate a whole post to the BM releases I’ve bought over the May to June period. There’s something here for everyone… um… provided you like Black Metal.

Mayhem – Grand Declaration of War (2CD Edition) (£11 HMV Glasgow)

In a previous post I confessed to being out of the loop when it comes to Mayhem’s post-Euronymous output. Rather than buy their latest Esoteric Warfare I decided to dive in further back. I was sure I remembered Mayhem’s Necrobutcher bigging this album up in interviews as being his favourite so I thought it would be a good place to start. And so it proved as this is right up my street: a cold, steely Black Metal concept album with an avant-garde edge. There are great changes in pace, style and atmosphere and it’s one of those albums that is a total experience from start to finish. I’m a bit surprised to find out that many Mayhem fans consider this their worst album. If that is the case then I can’t wait to hear the rest… (this also has the live/demo set European Legions as a bonus disc but I’ve not got round to it yet.)

Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare (£12 HMV Glasgow)

Bolstered by my enjoyment of their older work, I decided to dive straight in to their new album. After the boundary-pushing Grand Declaration of War, I wasn’t expecting the relatively conventional approach of their latest work. It’s the thrilling sound of a genre giant laying down the gauntlet. The production is warm and natural, the band truly play like they mean it and Atilla Csihar puts in an exceptionally deranged vocal performance. The passion and vitality of the band’s delivery sets this album apart, I can’t get enough of it. Expect more Mayhem in future Buying Round-Ups.

Emperor – In the Nightside Eclipse: 20th Anniversary Edition (2CD Deluxe) (£12 Fopp Glasgow)

Alongside Mayhem, Emperor is another giant of the Norwegian Second Wave. Their classic full-length debut gets a reissue with bonus tracks aplenty. Despite its symphonic leanings, it’s one of the stormiest Black Metal albums I’ve heard. At times it’s like an impenetrable whirlwind. This release has struggled to compete for my attention with all the newer music I’ve bought but it’s a worthy reissue: great sound and liner notes. The second disc’s unreleased alternative mix of the album doesn’t strike me as hugely different from the album version but it offers a welcome chance to pick out new details from the din and enjoy the album in a fresh light.

Emperor – Scattered Ashes: A Decade of Emperial Wrath (£10 HMV Glasgow)

I bought this “Greatest Hits” for the second disc of rarities (mainly cover versions and songs from split releases) but I’ve found myself enjoying the main disc even more. I actually already had the tab book for the main compilation so it’s been great to be able to finally follow along without having to keep changing discs.

Various Artists – One and All Together For Home (£7 Amazon Marketplace)

I’m being a bit cheeky including this one here as it’s not really a Black Metal release but since I bought it mainly for the Winterfylleth tracks I thought it fit well here. This is an intriguing concept for a compilation: a batch of folk-leaning Metal bands from throughout Europe performing their takes on the traditional music of their home countries. Some, like England’s Winterfylleth and Ireland’s Primordial, play it straight and faithful while some, like Finland’s Haive and The Netherland’s Molvolland, play darker and heavier takes on the source material. It’s pretty atmospheric stuff, in a Wicker Man sort of way. Of the bands here that are new to me, Haive and Ava Inferi both warrant further investigation.

Cradle of Filth – Total Fucking Darkness (£10 Fopp Glasgow)

Cradle of Filth’s Total Fucking Darkness demo gets a reissue with extra rehearsal tracks and a track from their lost Goetia album. I’m not hugely familiar with this band so I was very surprised to discover that these demos are stylistically worlds apart from the sound the band is famous for. It’s more in a Death Metal/Grindcore vein, the vocals guttural rather than shrieked. At times it brings to mind early Napalm Death or Carcass. An enjoyable curio, I always enjoy hearing bands at these innocent demo stages.

Watain – Rabid Death’s Curse (£7 Monorail Glasgow)

This is a reissue of the debut full-length from the stinky Swedes, the only full album of theirs I was missing. It’s a foul and ugly assault and I’m impressed at how formidable they were straight out of the gate and with more listens I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this becomes my favourite of theirs. Love the packaging too.

The Meads of Asphodel – The Early Years (£7 Amazon Marketplace)

And the Black Metal special ends on a more jovial note with HMO favourites The Meads of Asphodel. While I was impressed with how formidable Watain proved to be in their earliest stages, it’s also an unparalleled joy to hear that The Meads were thoroughly bonkers from the word go. The first songs from their first demo veer from chirpy Classical pieces to Venom to Techno to clappy medieval jigs and back to Venom again. But playful experimentation aside, the band also delivers on the Metal front. The opening to Pale Dread Hunger has some riffing to die for and the band prove adept at cover versions too. In short, this band continues to impress. Have at ye! I’m invincible!

*****

Hope you enjoyed my trawl through my recent Black Metal discoveries. I’ll be back soon with a round-up of some recent vinyl purchases. In the meantime, say hello to the two Devil Goats that have just moved in down the road from HMO Mission Control. Mehhh.