Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Autokrator - Autokrator 
Drone and death. Two things which would have seemed irreversibly oblique had you told me about it 20 years ago, when death metal had just gleaned its initial flourish, but here we are, at the edge of the world, listening to a French band with an album capable of satisfying followers of both genres, at least in theory. Autokrator. Oh, the autonomy. We've all had our fair share bands only too incapable of governing their own creativity and resulting in veritable travesties of musical produce, and a smaller percentage of bands which can skillfully exploit their unabashed titles and work out miracle albums, across the heavy metal spectrum. Autokrator doesn't quite belong to either camp. Simply put: there's a place, deep within the reaches of an industrial complex shrouded with clouds and gloom, perpetually fixated in production and yielding the same output with pretty much every return, coagulated in its moody ambient obsession. That's where you'll likely encounter ''Autokrator''.
Now, as much as the term 'drone/death' feels slightly alien to me, there's no denying that the Frenchmen are following a similar path to the Americans Aevangelist with their brand of irrevocable, tumultuous black/death shaking the very foundations of your cortex, or the calculated, Deathspell Omega-esque dissimilitude of Imperial Triumphant; but even so my resemblances wouldn't be entirely exact since there's a very industrial foundation to found here, not so slick or street-like as Ministry or Godflesh, but a more carefully plotted, systematic rendering of bulky, impenetrable chords redolent of Portal or Impetuous Ritual. Certainly the 'drone' is there, because Autokrator flesh out their riffs in some of the most mundane fashions I've recently heard, with dronish chord upon chord flung with unobtrusive reverb and patterned segments; yet I could also complain that between these gigantic hulks they propagate and the darkly atmosphere present, the Frenchmen aren't particularly interested in spicing their material up with detailed melodies or intricate high-end fret melodies the way their countrymen Deathspell Omega would have evoked excesses of nightmare and agony. Fuzzed out and implicitly linear, ''Autokrator'' is only slightly shy of becoming a dark marital industrial project - think In Slaughter Natives or Kreuzweg Ost - especially on the final track ''Optimus Princeps'', and as inclined the Frenchmen may be to spooning off your brain with these buzzed exhortations of sound and rhythm, I've found that none of the songs here cling to head, which isn't too surprising, but moreover, they lose their hypnotic and cranial power a little too quickly - in fact I found myself scrambling for ways to keep myself occupied by the third track.
Every track is nearly a duplicate of the other, with little or no nuance offered in between, therefore I find it silly to point out specific highlights on this record.While records of this kind are definitely difficult pills to swallow, after a acclimatization of the ears they should be taken in entire packages for the maximum, potent effect, yet ''Autokrator'' feels like a drug which loses its initial gloss of hypnosis shortly after the first injection, like a cheap, painful high. The drums here can be annoying for some. Personally I didn't have a problem with them since the sharp, industrialized snares provide with a few splotches of white in a a gossamer otherwise completely embroidered in darkness, but beyond that the cymbals were weak and the dynamics department therefore surprisingly meager. Some props go to the few ambient effects which somehow made it into an album almost completely filled with simplistic, gloomy synthesizers and hard-boiled riffcraft, giving the listener a few rare moments of breath and exploring more atmosphere than the instruments could ever hope to. As much as I sometimes enjoyed the aural and industrial punch of the rhythms from time to time, there's never enough variation to make the album worth reveling in. The majestic darkness of Deathspell Omega or Aevangelist is simply not there. The vocals, the musical equivalent of coughing out wet coals out of your asshole, are there, but even that hellish diarrhea feels unsatisfactory.
This is a record which strangely enough ticks all the boxes except for intricacy as far as this industrial black/death metal niche goes, but most of those ticks are, well... half-ticks. Unnerving, cyclical displeasure runs throughout. While one half of me wonders if this was the album those engineers and worker stormtroopers were jamming out to be while Death Star was being constructed in the midst of a spatial vacuum, the other half thinks it's probably a good idea to lay off this record, especially when there are so many other monstrous alternatives lying aground, although ''Autokrator'' still isn't terrible by any means.
The Tenth Persecution