Review by Rick Ossian
Those of you who regularly read my missives will recognize the Scandinavian outfit Aktaion from Halmstad. You may remember my review of their previous recording, Throne. If nothing else they’ve at least scaled those lofty heights again. Aktaion are Jonas Snackmark (vocals), Francis Larsson (guitars), Axel Crone (bass), Jonatan Ney (guitars, vocals) and Oskar Johnsen Rydh (drums). They can jam or gel or even pull off the occasional Metal/mental cacophony whilst they are jamming. This is no mean feat, reader. Read on if you dare!
As the Hope Collapses starts things off in fine form, although the tune is only just shy of three minutes in length, there are some serious busy goings-on involved. There is first off, a sweet riffy intro with creepiness and a mixture of clean and growl where the vocals are concerned. It is kind of Blues but super fucking bad-ass heavy at the same time. I was blown away, and for an opener to do that is considerable.
Candid Flow of the Shrapnel Dust is winner of the work for cool song title award. I believe at least 10 cool points are in order for title alone. So, what is the tune itself made of? There is a heavy opening with some serious riffage to begin with, amidst a barrage of growls from Mr Snackmark. The drums sound as if they are off to a Heavy Metal march. There is a lead guitar break at the six-minute mark, and some blues at around four minutes in, but safe to say this was a full-on seven-minute mindblower!
Seven boasts another heavy-as-hell intro, and there are more growly vocals. There are also moments of metal madness, if you will. There are times when the vocalist(s), as well as the rest of the band, sounds as if they may be possessed by some sort of demon! There is a super heavy shift at the four-minute mark, and more Metal/mental anguish at the close. If you are clinically depressed you may want to take your happy pills before listening…just saying!
The Walrus March is another seven-minute plus behemoth, featuring growls mixed with clean vocals. The opening sequence is a sort of metal ambience, if that’s even possible. Listen and hear. The lyrics are nothing if not pointedly prophetic: “If you should burn/ I should do the same”. There is a lead guitar bit at about three minutes in, which gives way to a super fucking heavy shift in the proceedings. This is followed by what I could safely say is the tearing of vocal chords (3:30-4:00), kind of makes me wonder what they look like on the inside! Another big shift at the five-minute mark gives way to more breakdowns, both instrumental and vocal. This is some serious Metal/mental anguish here, folks. Dig in. This is another seven-minute arse-kicker, and for whatever reason at the close we get a taste of some late night jazzy horns… what the hell? Not sure, but it’s still kind of cool.
The title track is up next, and features Christopher Amott (Arch Enemy, Armageddon) as a special guest. This begins life as what sounds like a vinyl haunted house, very creepy, fuzzy, scratchy and cool all at once! Simultaneous psych, if you will. There are also elements of Prog and Blues here, people, but don’t be musically shy! You’ll never get anywhere with that attitude! At 4:45 we get a nice long shredding solo that takes us to the close.
Stones Into Sand also features a member of Armageddon, Mr. Joey Concepcion. No doubt he is responsible for some of the heavy riffing going on here. It is at the intro and at the end, and throughout the main part of the tune. There are growls aplenty and lots of speedy shredding as well. The main spots to keep an ear out for here at at the 3 and 4-minute points.
Death Coloured Gold (again featuring Chris Amott) includes a super heavy duty opening with lots of instruments banging around, and even a burst of blasting lead guitar at about 30 seconds in. More growling and lead guitar parts (2:20 and 3:40), and some neat playing around/jamming at the close.
Gold Coloured Dreams begins life with an introspective guitar piece and some particularly anguished vocals. These are, again, mainly of the growl variety, but there are some clean parts mixed in. At the two-minute mark there is a breakdown and a shift at the same time. This is eerie as all fucking hell, and there is a Blues Metal attack of sorts as well. At 3:20 we return to Riff City (twice, even!), and one can’t help but wonder if this is riffing for the sake of riffing? Who cares? We love the wicked riffs, right? Of course we do! Another creepy close, like a Metal haunted house, takes us into the next number, but I must ad that though this track was a powerful, solid mover, it did bog down in the doom and gloom side of the street for a bit. No matter…moving right along, then!
For All Things basically is another super heavy riffer, with a lead guitar bit at about one minute in, and a Metal cacophony from four minutes in to the close (about a minute later). Good stuff, again a bit growly for my tastes, but it fits.
The Silent Song is another that features fellow Halmstad special guests, this time Chris Amott again and John Anderberg. It has one of those creepy cool vocal/guitar intros, mainly clean vocals operating here. At 1:30 things kick in, which I immediately revelled in as I thought they were going to mellow out or slow down or something… whew! The instrumental breakdown at three minutes in again almost slows things to a crawl. It’s still Heavy, and still very good, but is a bit mellow and Bluesy at times. Again, there are elements of Prog at work as well. At 3:20 there is a Heavy Psych/Blues/Metal cacophony of horror. The vocals finally cut through the mix at 3:50, and we get a “wow!” moment at the close. Some excellent work here.
The closer, Silence, has a cool guitar intro, but is mainly just a leftover blurb from the sounds of it. I would say this – it could be more, if it were fleshed out a bit. In this state it is more of a structural skeleton of a tune.
One thing keeps coming to mind here, readers. This is not just a good Metal album. This is a great Metal album from a great band. I am looking forward to their next outing!