When a band comes out of the woods calling themselves an occult rock band, I can’t help but think of Ghost. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly think of Ghost when I think of occult rock (I think of those odd, ritualistic LaVey recordings I’ve heard) but that seems to be the way many o’ metalhead think. The silly Satanic lyrics, the soaring vocals and the doomy, gloomy, rocking, old-school riffs of Opus Eponymous are what people associate “occult rock” with these days. On the immediate surface, Norway’s Acârash don’t disagree with this assessment of occult rock but, boy, do they have a darker, blacker outlook on the style. But in a different way than you may have considered.
After all this nonsense about the infamous Ghost (seriously, I’m so fucking tired of hearing about them and their new, boring-ass album), there is only the occasional riff that feels Ghostly onAcârash‘s debut record, In Chaos Becrowned. You can feel it a little in the rocking licks of the title track and opener “Cadaver Dei.” But it comes and goes, and it’s quite subtle. Surprising enough, In Chaos Becrowned feels more like Now, Diabolical-era Satyricon with a touch of the occult. Those slow-to-medium-paced ploddings of Satyricon‘s records from Volcano-to-now dominate this record. Even Acârash‘s vocalist uses Satyr’s low vocals here. And, for better or worse, that is the only vocal style present for the next forty minutes. Taking all this at its most basic, and not-so-varying state, a small dose of Watain is shoveled in for good measure. The result is Acârash in a nutshell. Not the occult rock Ghost has laid claim to, but one that pushes against the threshold that holds its lock.
As one would expect, In Chaos Becrowned is an interesting album. If not the most original. Opener “Cadaver Dei” might be the best representation of the band, as it alternates between the plod and vocal patterns of Satyricon to the heaviness of Watain and the rocking occult riffs of (well, you know). But “Ashes of the Mortal Mind” is first-degree robbery. Its chorus, in particular, is straight from the likes of Satyricon‘s “K.I.N.G.” and “Now, Diabolical.” Closer “Cenotaph in Flesh” is also heavy on the Satyriconisms but in a high-energy, stop-start march kind of way. Much like Satyricon in the early ’00s.
For all their similarities to Satyr & Co., these songs—along with the title track—are the strongest of the album. Others, like “Legio Obscura” and “Gathering of Crows,” try my patience muchly. The former has the unfortunate duty of following “Ashes of the Mortal Minds,” as well as being the fifth song to start in the same slow, droning way. “Cenotaph in Flesh” is the only song to come flying out of the gates without a long, drawn-out intro. All the others feel like the continuation of one long song. The result is that the album flows well but there ain’t much variety. The only other song that stands out for its alternative take on this mud-march pace is “Sacrifice the Winter Wolf.” It, however, takes things even slower than the typical piece and adds a creepy melody to the disc. Unfortunately, it’s only a touch better than the go-nowhere “Legio Obscura” and “Gathering of Crows.”
The high points of In Chaos Becrowned are indeed high. Everywhere from songs like “Ashes of the Mortal Mind” and “Cenotaph in Flesh” to the highly-dynamic master. But, in the end, the rarely alternating approach to the songwriting has me losing focus in the back-half of the disc. A lot of this has to do with the fact that many of the songs go nowhere. Tjis is an interesting piece of occult rock but, for all the high points, In Chaos Becrowned evens out to be just another solid debut.