Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Acherontas - Tat Tvam Asi: Universal Omniscience (2007)

Rather than continue parading about under the brand of a Polish WWII death camp, the men of Stutthof decided to transition into a more thematically appropriate moniker. Thus Acherontas was born, named for a former Greek municipality, and by extension the river Acheron (both real and mythological). To say that they also shifted their genre would be misleading, because Tat Tvam Asi: Universal Omniscience does resemble Stutthof's derived formula of Scandinavian black metal, only they engage further in the mysticism and philosophical musings of history and the occult, and there are greater aural contrasts between their blasted savagery and lust for classical segues and interludes.

Of course, this last bit comes once again at a cost. Whereas the second Stuffhof full-length had the gall to incorporate several pieces from The Ninth Gate film score, this time they've chosen "Alfa: Genesis" from Clint Mansell's score to The Fountain. It's a comely, swollen piece with strings and pianos, but I can't say that I appreciate it's place here on a black metal album. With the relative ease of access to synthesizers, musical software and such, why not write your own original piece to kick off the album? I understand Acherontas means no harm in including the bit, perhaps they just want to expose the piece to an audience who might not otherwise ever check it out, but it feels such a contrived and inane maneuver (much like it was the last time they did it). It also creates a massive dichotomy against the raw sewage surge of the title track, which is streaming and passionate black metal to the bone, with growls, snarls and deeper clean vocals plowing forth against a tinny blast beat and dense but unmemorable bank of chords.

Once this initial chunk of the album has passed, things become considerably better. I enjoyed the noisy ebb and flow of "Soma - Elixir of the Ancient Ones", the mid-paced gallantry erupting into a measured, melodic blast sequence, and the same convocation of crowning, schizoid vocals. The Greeks grow even more ambitious for "Kali-Yuga", a nearly 10 minute stretch of theatrical menace conveyed through bombastic, airy synthesizers (the ones that could have been used to write an original into) and guitars both gliding and punishing. Individual riffs rarely stick out in the compositions, but they convene into stratospheric, nightsky nightmares, like the writhing and searing orchestration of "The Final Harvest" or the haunted house barrage "The Dreamer".

Where they do write their own little ambient/classical interludes, like "Sophia" and "Omega: The Seal of the Dragon", you get a taste that they can really show their hands. The mix of pianos and synthesized orchestral instruments gives the album a sweltering other-ness to it, like some jaded scholar discovering evidence that sorcery or alchemy are, in fact, realities hidden from the world of skeptics. It's excitable and energetic about its subject matter and twining its influences into a musical glory beyond their former incarnation. The production is resonant but still fairly raw. In truth, I enjoyed this album more than either of the Stutthof full-lengths, but I just wish they'd shy away from the movie score bits and start their record off with some thunder. Tat Tvam Asi: Universal Omniscience eventually catches up to the listener, but it takes a good 10 minutes. In addition, the riffs seem to always lack that certain something that allows their retention.

Verdict: Win [7/10]


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