If you want to make your friends scared of you and your parents consider sending you to an institution for the criminally insane, you need only say two words. Death Metal. Nowadays the words spit out images of satan worshipping, scream-your-guts-out-in-a-demonic-growl vocals and fast chords. But that's just Behemoth. Death Metal is to many people widely unapproachable. Then again, why shouldn't it be? Most people listen to *** pop punk, Britney Spears, or soley the soundtrack to High School Musical. The future of America rests in the hands of these impressionable youngsters, and we have Xzibit pimping rides as a role model. But to be fair, Death Metal bands probably aren't the best role models either. Most music within the genre is very fast, very loud, and very unmelodious. But the emphasis is on most. Some bands bring the noise just as fast, just as loud, but with singing instead of flat scream. Scandalous, but true. This brings us to Akercocke. After their three previous albums, the UK quartet had built themselves up a reputation as being an extreme death/black metal band with a habit of performing in full suits and lacing their sound with electronics and keyboards. Intriguing, yes, but the execution is what brought the extreme audience to their knees. With a mixtrue of crunching guitar riffs, audible basslines, furious double bass pounding drums, and a vocalist whose voice hits every note, high or low, Akercocke assured themselves a solid fanbase and garnered themselves a reputation as being one of the most intriguing black/death metal bands to rise into being. After the success of their last three albums, Akercocke released Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone
, an album released to prove that death metal is not a genre filled with idiot thrashers. Sometimes Death Metal dresses up and makes itself very kick-ass.
Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone
is not your average Black/Death Metal album, to say the least. Everything from satanic lyrical content to actual singing to keyboard interludes to cannibalistic instumentals pop up, all within the 50 minutes Words
contains. At the forefront of the musical chaos is frontman Jason Mendoca. Playing guitar and singing, Mendoca puts to shame many extreme metal vocalists. His vocals can range from pleasing baritone, to high pitched devilish shouts, to rumbling growls. What seperates Mendoca even further is that his cleanly produced growls can go lower than the average band. His lyrics are dark, with themes centralizing around Satan and sexuality. The two always seem to go hand in hand, eh? Mendoca's talent and variation makes Words
all the more enjoyable. Often times he seems to take on the persona of the character he sings as. On the opening track Verdelet
, Mendoca seems to be the Beast himself when he shouts "I curse this World, that it should keep turning. I curse this God, who decrees that I should die. I will give you Hell." Later in the very same song, Mendoca twists lore with graphic sex, bellowing "Nymphets demand coition aching for penetration". And you thought System of a Down were sexually freaky. System are prude virgins in comparison. Mendoca's got a pretty weird head on him. His grunts and wild cheap-exorcist-movie rants pop up throughout Words
. On the eleven minute epic Shelter From The Sand
, he decrees "Walking freely among the enemy, The Baptists lack of inner capacity; Philosophical sagacity; It is not seen as a defect, but as a sign of strength." One minute later, the song turns into a chruch bell/piano. At the end, a syncopated electric keyboard leads the song to it's conclusion. This is Death Metal? Akercocke defiantly answers with an emphatic yes.
Akercocke's sound on Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone
is that of a band pushing the envelope of what Death Metal should be. They consistently show that they can grind with the best, as on late-album thrashers Seraphs and Silence
and The Penance
, but on the very two tracks before, they show off they're melodic, almost Tool-like talents. Words That Go Unspoken
and Intractable (Words That Go Unspoken, Part 2)
go hand in hand as being fine pieces of metal, but even the casual fan can enjoy Mendoca's near crooning of lines like "Singular rose with a secretive smile. Calonice, green eyes aflame. To scratch beneath the veneer, to see beneath the surface. Somewhere in between the idea and the action. Everything is real." Seperated, the lines are disjointed, but together the pain of the words seeps with heart. Because the lines are sung, an almost sad moment is induced because the words are actually understood. The Words That Go Unspoken
saga is divided into four parts, with each track containing two different but thematically similar songs. It's an attest to Akercocke's talents to realize they wrote the same song four times differently, and with the same lyrical themes, but are able to maintain a level of interest high enough to not notice the fact you're listening to the same song with different tempos. The good thing is, the entire album works in this way. Driven by percussionist David Gray's double bass fury, Words
explores the boundaries of what will sound good and remain death metal. It's bands that explore these boundaries that make history. This is why Akercocke's intrigue level is so high.
As with most death metal music, Akercocke's musicianship is at a premium. And it very well has to be. When Mendoca goes on an indistinguishable rampage, the music must be there to back him up. Guitarist Matty Wilcock and Mendoca are premium crunchers and grinders, with solos that would make the godfathers of hammer-ons and pull-offs proud. The furious guitar riff that opens Seduced
sounds like an outtake of System of a Down's "Cigaro", but soon proves to be a demolishing headbanging riff from hell, with Gray furiously moving his feet to push the tempo faster than the average drummer could. Gray's work is impeccable on Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds that go Undone
, oftentimes providing the most interesting part of the song. His work on the aforementioned Shelter from the Sand
is remarkable, as he often works spare cymbal hits and quad runs into otherwise simple beats. Some might call it showing off, but more than likely it's proof of his skill with the sticks. Gray and 4-stringer Peter Theobalds share a telopathic connection necessary for any successful rhythm section. A main difference about Akercocke as opposed to other metal bands is that the bass is very much audible. Save for blasting metal riffs, Theobalds is very much free during verses to make for a varied listening experience. The instrumentation is forever an important part to a good band, and songwriter Mendoca knows that. His traded guitar solos with Wilcock at the end of The Penance
are excellent, devilish pieces of work. Because of their virtuosity, Akercocke makes for a fun listen, even if your ears will bleed because of the noise.
So, with all the hoopla of electronics and piano, is Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone
worth getting if your an extreme metalhead, a casual hard rock listener, or even worth getting at all? The question takes time to answer. Akercocke is very much death metal, which would put off that pissy casual listener. However, beneath the shell the genre puts over Akercocke, there is a band built on melody and fierce words. The album closes with Lex Talionis
, a softer, never once hard funeral march, with stringing guitars and a haunting melody providing the foundation. Mendoca sighs deadly one liners like "An eye for an eye. Hollowed apathy, Weakened will. Emotional Mendicants, Blood to spill," creating a sad, nearly Inquisition-era song that closes with a horrifically dissonant chord to get the impression that the character personified has just been hung. With the song's dark feel and lyrical content, that would not surprise me. All in all, Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone
is a monsterous effort from the UK quartet. Built off monsterous riffs and vocal prowess, Akercocke made their sound terrifically engineered to be a near beautiful blend of everything music can be. Making plentiful use of piano and acoustic guitars, Akercocke maintains it's claim as being one of the hardest, most intriguing Death Metal bands around today.
And you thought underOATH was so hardcore...
Shelter from the Sand
Seraphs and Silence
Words That Go Unspoken (Both Parts)
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