Autarkh – Form in Motion Review

Some albums disappoint, and it’s absolutely the band’s fault. Especially when an established standard-setter drops the ball by releasing something tepid and unmoving after a string of killer material that rips mana out of deepest recesses of your heart, body and mind, that sense of disappointment threatens to destroy our faith in a band’s future output. On the other hand, sometimes a record comes out that fails to resonate through no fault of the band or the album themselves, but knowing that’s the case doesn’t save you from feeling let down. When it comes to Autarkh’s brand spankin’ new debut Form in Motion, I find myself disappointed from all sides.

My taste in metal rapidly expanded after Autarkh’s mastermind Michel Nienhuis obliterated my understanding of the universe with his atom-blasting Dodecahedron project. Crushing dissonance met twisted melody and horrific atmosphere in a package that was challenging but morbidly inviting not once, but twice. Autarkh falls far from that tree, not at all a continuation of Michel’s past efforts. This I respect and encourage. Sonically, a trace of dissonance remains, but there breeds a new robotic artificiality multi-threading its way through a field of chugging industrialist tones and mechanical operations. Atmosphere abounds, but it’s not pleasing nor is it beautiful. Form in Motion is an ugly monster from a cyberpunk future where black metal fights for its life against tidal waves of tech and vile electrical currents.

Structurally, Form in Motion is straightforward and direct, leaving the odd and the gnarled for the details. This works in the band’s favor, as each crazy sound and eerie effect gets to suck the light from the world in equal measure. Furthermore, the complete absence of drums makes for an interesting choice that I want Autarkh to develop further. Replacing the drums with dubstep-reminiscent beat engineering really works here, giving the album a much appreciated sense of unease. There remains that familiar murk of horror, thankfully, which provides Form in Motion the requisite oxygen to thrive and writhe under your skin. That role is filled by an impenetrable backdrop of blackened tremolos and staggered riffing, a metallic skeleton upon which the rest of the band’s sound draws support and stability.

Yet, the creature before me is but a few months old, and struggles to walk with confidence. There is a complete lack of compelling or memorable songs here, which is why I haven’t mentioned any yet. I simply can’t remember them without looking down at my remarkably sparse notebook. Even the album highlight “Clouded Aura”—which combines the aggression of black metal with the lumbering stomp of industrial music seamlessly, and offers a bonus harsh chorus for extra drama—fails to leave a lasting mark once I walk away. But there is a bigger problem than the memorability Form in Motion lacks: this album is brand new, and it already feels twenty years old. Not that good things can’t feel rooted in the days of the past, but this is not that. I listen to Form in Motion, and recall that time back in 2009 when I binged hours of cookie cutter dubstep before I recognized how superficial and empty a lot of it was, and within a short period I lost my taste for the style. A similar thing happened with Autarkh during the week I spent with their output. The chipped electronics in “Alignment” and “Introspectrum,” for example, entertained for a while, as they give the impression of perfectly timed glitches in a videogame that don’t disrupt my progress while simultaneously enhancing my experience. However, the zap they provide fades with repeated spins, leaving behind a dearth of substance inside the songs themselves.

The thing is, all Form in Motion actually failed to do was to resonate with me. Others may find that this weird and wonky package is exactly what moves the needle for oddball metal. I don’t think much needs changing in the way of sound or concept, as both make for intriguing metal, but forming something as impressive as Dodecahedron’s two masterpieces using this mechanized formula poses a considerable songwriting challenge for the nascent group. In short, Form in Motion is an interesting proof of concept, and not much more.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 12th, 2021

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