Here at AMG, one of my biggest challenges (besides suppressing my gag reflex when cleaning out the office refrigerator) is trying to keep my reviews to a tidy length. Between describing a band’s sound and influences, elaborating on the various songs, bitching about the production, and writing shitty and superfluous opening paragraphs, it can be hard to squeeze all my thoughts into only 700 or so words. Fortunately Aktaion’s sophomore outing The Parade of Nature is the rare record which can be accurately described in a single term: Gojira-core. That right there tells you everything you need to know. If a chug-heavy, core-informed version of everyone’s favorite progressive-death-groove environmentalist band sounds appealing to you whatsoever, you’ll probably love Parade. If not, steer clear and let this Swedish quartet have their fun. And with that, my work here is done. (Just kidding. I get paid by the sentence and those Flamin’ Hot Cheetos aren’t going to buy themselves).
Some quick background: Aktaion formed in 2010 and released debut Throne last year. Despite not being familiar with the group prior to Parade, I do have to give them credit for two reasons: one, they couldn’t have nailed it better when comparing themselves to Soilwork, Killswitch Engage, and Gojira in their promo blurb; and two, The Parade of Nature is actually a pretty impressive record.
Early highlights like first proper track “Candid Flow of the Shrapnel Dust” and “Walrus March” reek of From Mars to Sirius but sound angrier and more invigorated than Gojira have in years. It’s all here: the stomping rhythms and thick, thumpy bass drums. Burly, chugging, and mercilessly groovy guitars that evolve and morph throughout the songs’ runtimes. A menacing, bass-heavy sound. And frothy, raspy growls that employ animal imagery to espouse a seemingly environmentalist message. While the tight drumming rivets everything well, it’s the excellent riffage in songs like “Stones Into Sand” and “Death Coloured Gold” that wins out. “Stones” punctuates its swift, pounding tempo with blunt, cinderblock-to-the-face chords and proggy, melodic flourishes that recall After the Burial or even Architects, while “Death” capitalizes on its frantic, twisted consonance by combining shrill harmonics into the best riff Periphery never wrote before featuring a guest guitar solo from Arch Enemy’s Chris Amott.
Like their influences, Aktaion mix up the battering with some gentler moments and clean vocals. After an ambient beginning of splashy cymbals and distant screams, opener “As the Hope Collapses” crests with faintly operatic singing that sounds inspired by Jesse Leach during Killswitch‘s Alive or Just Breathing-era. Likewise, aforementioned “Candid” and “Walrus” temporarily dial back the sprawling chugs for clean choruses, while “The Parade of Nature” and penultimate track “The Silent Song” utilize subdued singing over soft, spacey electric guitars, only later working into twisted groaning riffs, wailing cleans. And – in the case of “Silent” – there’s a rainy nightclub trumpet and ooohing backing vocals that provide a fitting ending to these 55 minutes prior to the reverb-soaked arpeggios of instrumental coda “Silence.”
Unfortunately these clean vocals are also the biggest issue I have with Parade. While sounding earnest and emotional, occasionally the melodies fall flat and the execution turns mopey. Put simply, the singing sounds unpolished and even a bit amateur at times, causing moments like the chorus of “Walrus” to prove beneficial only for the soft dynamics it offers. Likewise, while there’s ample variety through these 12 tracks, a few more progressive or adventurous excursions wouldn’t have been unwelcome and could have replaced the less exciting moments like the repetitive vocal phrase in “Gold Coloured Dreams.” On the plus side, the production perfectly fits the style: crisp, modern, and nicely layering the occasionally harmonized vocals, richly melodic solos, and faint background leads. The guitars have more heft than a constipated rhinoceros, providing plenty of force for these riffs to crush like Mother Earth intended.
Overall, while there’s clearly room to grow, Aktaion are an inspired group with a keen sense of songcraft and an ambitious vision. Parade may wear its influences on its sleeves, but the bullheaded devotion and quality execution makes it feel like the group are climbing upon an empty throne rather than riding another band’s coattails (in other words, we skipped Magma for a reason). If their concept is to be believed, we may all be doomed to environmental catastrophe – but at least the musical future couldn’t look brighter for these Swedes. And I get my Cheetos.