Review by Sonny for Funereal Presence - Achatius (2019) Review by Sonny for Funereal Presence - Achatius (2019)

Sonny Sonny / May 04, 2021 / 1

This seems, upon a first listen, to be quite a complex black metal album with it's strange song structures, their stop/start nature, the chants, the disparate array of percussive elements and the keening guitar soloing, but under all this dissonant chaff there is actually a real old-school beast of an album that harkens back to the likes of early Mayhem and Darkthrone with some killer 90's BM riffs (the one in the middle of Wherein a Messenger of the Devil Appears was a real "gotcha" moment for me). The fact that this crazed, schizoid black metal concept album is the product of a single person (Bestial Devotion, drummer of Gainesville's Negative Plane) is amazing, as it sounds far more like it has the kind of dynamic that can only really come from a full band.
The album is comprised of four tracks, each weighing in at a length of eleven to thirteen minutes, that tell the story of Christian martyr St. Achatius, who was tortured and beheaded in Byzantium during the early 4th century for refusing to recant his faith. The busy nature of the tracks, the lo-fi aesthetic and heavy distortion, does invoke an atmosphere that illustrates the relentless nature of the venerable saint's trials at the hands of his torturers, not allowing a moments respite, similar to the modern tales of unrelenting torment meted out in places like Abu-Graibh. The interspersing of the tracks with occasional chants and (more frequent) bell effects suggests the poor Achatius steadfastly clinging to his faith despite this onslaught against his soul from the more dissonant elements.
At first listen I wasn't exactly over-enamoured by this, as it seemed like it was wantonly disjointed and felt like an attempt at some kind of avant-garde black metal collage, but subsequent listens have allowed me to recognise that underneath it is quite a primal black metal record that hasn't actually strayed all that far from the genre's earliest roots. I've bought in to it's jagged, sharp-edged structure and the disconcerting effect it has on the listener, like a painting or picture that is viewed from a weird perspective. The result of all this is a real one-off of an album that I have heard very little to compare with (this of course may be a failing of my own and perhaps there are loads, but I don't think so). Yet another album that proves black metal is still a long way from having run it's course and can still turn out original releases of exceptional, thought-provoking quality.

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