If terms like ‘blackened death metal’ are familiar to, you should really be aware of English band Akercocke, one of my all-time favourite bands. Rejecting the corpse paint and theatrics of Norwegian black metal acts, they billed themselves as smart, English gentlemen, evoking comparisons to The Hellfire Club rather than a bunch of Kiss fans who are really into nails and axes.
Akercocke released some fantastic albums over the period in which they were active (though their debut album was a bit crap, if truth be told), incorporating a rather avant garde take on what extreme music should and could be. This less than straightforward approach to metal probably narrowed their audience more than it should, which is a damn shame because they were goddamn fantastic; I managed to catch them live at Bloodstock close to before they disappeared off the face of the Earth. They just went silent, more or less. No more releases, their website was simply left to fade, and fans like me were left really quite upset.
Except it doesn’t look like they’ve taken a one way trip to meet their Horned One just yet, because almost utterly under the radar some of the band members managed to slip out a release under the new name of Voices. Admittedly, this shouldn’t be taken as a new Akercocke release; but it looks like it’s the best we’ll be getting for now, and the fact that the sound is very similar with most of the Akercocke line-up, it’s almost impossible not to start drawing comparisons.
The songs on ‘The Human Forest Create A Fuge Of Imaginary Rain’ (yes, that is the title; yes it’s terrible) have a stronger black metal vibe to them than Akercocke ever did, and this isn’t a bad thing. But they really haven’t forgotten how to make some really quite killer riffs to complement some not-quite-as-good-as-Akercocke vocals; thank fuck for that. Kudos to vocalist Peter Benjamin though (one of the ex-Akercocke members), he manages to sound very similar to Jason Mendonça (Akercocke’s vocalist); Jason is easily one of the better metal vocalists out there, so it’s no bad thing to be able to get a comparison. There’s also a female vocalist on the album, and I’m not certain who it is, but she does sound very similar to Miri Milman (of System Divide / Distorted fame); again, I think she’s pretty decent, so yay.
With the pummelling drums, the catchy and almost hypnotic guitar work, and suitably Satanic vocals, this album really should be checked out. It has less money, promotion, and fanfare behind it than Behemoth’s latest release (reviewed here)—just check out the not-particularly-safe-for-work music video below, which was presumably done on a budget of good will—but I’ve always thought that the kind of sound that Akercocke / Voices evoke is far more suited to the subject at hand than the pomp that Behemoth favour. ‘From The Human Forest…’ is by no means a perfect release—for example, the song ‘Sexual Isolation’ could do with being shorter—but it’s a strong enough release to warrant more attention than it’s gotten thus far, and to look forward to more releases in the future.