Akiavel – Væ Victis Review

If you’re about my age, you probably remember being a teenager and being rather surprised by Arch Enemy’s “Nemesis” video. For those unfamiliar, a speedy melo-death riff kicks the song off and we see a girl dressed like a Hot Topic version of Britney Spears in the “Oops, I Did it Again” video. She lets out a scream, and everyone watching goes “whoa, I can’t believe a girl can make those sounds!” The novelty wore off quickly despite my efforts to like the band because I liked Michael Amott’s work in Carcass. The Angela Gossow version Arch Enemy was inoffensively boring, and the band has since deteriorated into being offensively boring in the current Alissa White-Gluz iteration. The takeaway here is that Arch Enemy at their most popular is bland and uninspiring, and I’m lost as to who would take musical inspiration from that sound.

Enter French death metal band Akiavel. Their debut, Væ Victis, is said to “embody the word ‘death’” and Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Deicide were cited among their influences. Looks good to me on paper, but I’m not hearing that. What I’m hearing is a somewhat heavier and groovier Arch Enemy seasoned to taste with fairly watered-down Kataklysm and Amon Amarth elements. Væ Victis resides in that uncanny valley of melo-death where it’s not heavy enough to get by on its death metal merits, nor is the melodicism strong enough to carry the day. It’s just there, existing lackadaisically, hitting the surface-level aesthetic marks with a polished and chunky mid-aughts sound, decent vocals, melodies which aim at despondency but instead end up evoking feelings of mild dissatisfaction and boredom, and lots of chugging for a facsimile of heaviness.

An obvious potential hit here is “The Lady of Death,” as it’s the token song with serviceable clean vocals in the chorus. This chorus fits somewhat poorly with the rest of the song though, which may explain why the transition into it is a second of silence. This device of transitioning via sudden silence is overused in “Frozen Beauties” and it makes the song sound disjointed as a result. “Comrade” features children’s vocals, or perhaps an adult actress trying to sound like a child in the vein of the hilarious dub of Bob in the Fulci classic House by the Cemetery. For the fifteen misguided souls who require more proof that the only acceptable answer to “should I add children’s vocals to my metal album?” is “absolutely not,” Akiavel is here to help where the embarrassing sonic self-immolation of Behemoth on #ILYAYD somehow failed to. “Mommy I’m Capable” appears to borrow its title from something shouted in that annoying middle part in “Down with the Sickness” or it’s a Korny take on Panic! At the Disco’s hit “Hey Look Ma, I Made It.” Whatever the case may be, the music leaves much to be desired unless you inexplicably desire bland Arch Enemy outtakes seasoned with bland Kataklysm outtakes.

It’s not all bad, I guess. The bass break in “Bind Torture Kill” is good, but it leads into a by-the-numbers sugary melo-death chug-fest instead of something memorable or heavy. The tired knockoff Kataklysm-isms of “Zombie” can be recalled if you put your mind to it, but that’s the best thing I can say about the song. The best moment of the record is the chorus of “Needles from Hell,” which sounds like a merger of the most average moments in the Kataklysm and Amon Amarth catalogues, but is nevertheless a nice break from the crushing tedium surrounding it. The quasi-breakdown in “Medium” is decent, and Auré’s use of more guttural vocals works well enough over the chugging.

To its detriment, Væ Victis is overly polished in its production. The music just sounds sterile, and the distinct lack of heaviness and emotion in the compositions is emphasized and exacerbated by this. To me, this is the sound of a mainstream metal festival at around twelve-thirty in the afternoon. The music is loud, sonically accessible for those who’ve heard anything under the “modern metal” umbrella, completely lackluster and inoffensive, and the band have a visual aesthetic that will appeal to that group of people who like Tim Burton movies. As evidenced by the existence of Væ Victis, there’s an audience for this type of music. That audience is not me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the beer tent waiting until this set’s over.

Rating: 1.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Websites: akiavel.bandcamp.com | akiavel.com | facebook.com/Akiavel
Releases Worldwide: April 23rd, 2021

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