Sometimes, when that flight of masochistic fancy hits, we here at AMG like to play a little game lovingly referred to as Promo Roulette – not unlike Russian Roulette, but with every chamber loaded with disaster and disappointment. The powers that be randomly assign a project, comfortable in the knowledge that the first, last and only rule of said gamble is: the house always wins. On occasion, however, it is possible to steal a non-fatal cranial grazing and happen upon something worthwhile. So when the relative quality of Akatharta‘s debut, Spiritus Immundus, rebounded off my ferrous hide and into my lap, I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. I was even more surprised to find that this was the brain-child of none other than vocalist Kam Lee, notable amongst the death metal legendarium for his contributions to Death prototype, Mantas, and of course Massacre, where he would help define guttural vocals as we know them. Akatharta conducts a brand of death/doom so fundamentally suffocating that – combined with the utterly intolerable heat-wave my country is enduring – I barely survived to tell the tale.
If acts like Skepticism, Thergothon and other such Mournful Congregations are playing your brand of Chopin, then this promises to be right up your alley. Spiritus Immundus seeks to provide a claustrophobic soundscape to contain its core of funereal rhythms, and certainly succeeds – employing genuinely chilling nuances to accentuate its inhospitable environs. The pacing of the material is, unsurprisingly, slow, and while not perhaps what could be traditionally considered funeral doom, certainly stretches on. “Macabre Reflections in the Dark” lurches into life with an excerpt from “How to See Ghosts or Surely Bring Them to You” – a cut from Vincent Price‘s 1972 Tales of Witches, Ghosts and Goblins narrative album; a fine choice, I think you’ll agree. A dark avalanche of doom, the song is full of guitarist, Aaron Whitsell’s, ringing chords and warped circus leads, all bound by sparse palm-mutes and a strangely memorable chorus.
Kam Lee’s vocals preside over each track with his signature delivery; effortless and abyssal. To truly illuminate the road to perdition, however, they utilize actual EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena), captured from across the globe and applied to many of the songs to unsettling effect. On occasion, Spiritus Immundus does manage to exceed the purgatorial crawl, as on “Tenebrarum in Aeternum” with trem-picked leads swarming over propulsive riffs. Akatharta‘s debut is a dense affair, to say the least and, as such, occasionally threatens to fatigue. The album’s less vivid material is habitually overshadowed by its hierarchical siblings, and with the litany of Latin that exhausts much of the lyrical body, tedium does come a callin’. “Transpierce the Umbra,” a brief instrumental interlude, although unique for its heavy inclusion of EVP, is inevitably redundant, as these things so often are.
The record’s ordering also seems to illogically scramble towards the end. The final song on the album is a cover of Celtic Frost‘s “Dethroned Emperor” – a classic to say the least, and a worthy copy, but one who’s inclusion as a bonus track or special edition feature would have been much preferred. As it stands, the natural closer of Spiritus Immundus is, in fact, “Possessione Diabolica,” which reflects the albums start, peppered with edits from the same Vincent Price recording. It works its way up to a grand, discordant finale, only to be followed up by another two songs, fundamentally neutering its impact. This became more and more prominent with each listen; disappointing, as the first half of the record is so strong. Fortunately, there is no legitimately bad material; the record’s biblical center, “Nocturnal Interment,” is a 9+ minute devastation that recalls early My Dying Bride, whilst aping the damning quality that band’s “The Wreckage of My Flesh” captured so disarmingly well.
Such is the fate of the chancer – Akatharta was a welcome wager, and one of the better inclusions into the ranks of doom acts seeking to answer the question: what would soul rot sound like given audible form? Apparently, the answer is Kam Lee. Spiritus Immundus plays host to what is now his most relevant performance, capturing the concept of Lovecraft’s From Beyond better than the frontman’s alma mater ever did. For those fans of mid-night desolation, this debut seeks to paraphrase the never-late, always-great Martin Van Drunen and “doom you to death,” and, by and large, it does just that.