Autokrator – Persecution Review

I think it’s in my job description to just steal promos from Kronos for the rest of my writing career. Autokrator is no exception, as a casual perusal through the promo bin revealed this little gem, one that elicited a reaction not unlike from beloved Christmas movie Elf: “I know them!” Of course, they had been previously covered by AMG’s favorite purveyor of the dissonant and bizarre. I was introduced to the French Autokrator through 2018’s eardrum-busting Hammer of the Heretics, so a quick perusal through Kronosmostly complete coverage of their discography let me in on all I needed to know to tackle Persecution. Continuing to minimize its drone influences in favor of no-holds-barred blackened death, 2021 finds these Frenchmen in a bit of a crisis, even if it’s for the better.

In many ways, Persecution follows the trajectory of its predecessor, relying on droning low-end guitar riffs, brutal vocals, plodding drums, and a sense of hellishness to round out the aesthetic. Hammer of the Heretics established the band as a separate entity from the noise-mongering muck of their debut, and 2021 offers them the crossroads: to fall into the rut of old habits or to embrace the riff. While I’m certainly pleased to see that they have taken the latter route, it’s a path well-trodden by the feet of its forefathers. Citing influences like Portal, Impetuous Ritual, and Teitanblood, you can expect murk to shroud its visceral attack. However, while these acts offer wormy dissonance alongside lurching, crawling riffs, Autokrator’s attempt, like its predecessor, attacks its six songs with sheer intensity and visceral energy. Ultimately falling short of contending with death metal royalty, Persecution manages to put up a fight thanks to newfound songwriting chops and a uniquely militaristic percussive attack.

While well established, Autokrator denies its old roots, only to fuse nearly drone heft with blackened death riffs to portray the suffering of Christian persecution during Roman rule. Guitar is dense and nearly cavernous, but different from 2018, neglects ear-piercing noise in favor of memorability across its blessedly brief 35-minute runtime. Tracks like “The Great Persecution” and “Antechristus” offer surprisingly catchy licks, wormy melodies, and memorable guitar solos that emerge from the wall of noise of the unchangingly smooshed DR5 production. That being said, while Hammer of the Heretics offered bleeding ears in overwhelmingly noisy guitars, Persecution is much more balanced in its attack: tastefully brutal vocals lead the charge while dense guitars gallop into battle and drums provide the aerial cover. Most notable are closers “Caesar Nerva Traianus” and “Apocalypsis,” which capitalize upon the militaristic plodding of predecessor’s closer “Inquisito-Denunciato-Exceptio” in more obvious fashion. Featuring sprawling riffs alongside marching snare rhythms, it matches its Roman theme with a precision that is unmatched in much of their genremates. Ultimately, Persecution finds Autokrator leaning more into accessible tones, straying from the exercise-in-excess of its predecessors for a more straightforward blackened death affair — and they’re all the better for it.

That being said, Autokrator now struggles to locate its identity. While its closers are unique in a battle march songwriting and Persecution focuses on balance rather than blasting, it’s a path well trodden. While the transition to this militaristic tone is expertly crafted beginning in “Antechristus,” there is little unique found in “De Gloria Martyrum Et Confessorum,” “The Great Persecution,” or “DCLXVI” except solid blackened death chops. The chunky chugs are outdone by recent offerings by Our Place of Worship is Silence or Pneuma Hagion, the dissonance/groove dichotomy is better performed by those of Veilburner or Replicant, and the low-end tone is very much something you would see in acts like Defacement or Veld. Also, while establishing the Roman militaristic atmosphere is accomplished smoothly and patiently, its full realization in closer “Apocalypsis” frankly overstays its welcome in spite of its relatively brief runtime with excessive Latin spoken word samples.

Blessedly, in Autokrator’s straying from the noise path, they smooth the rough edges, making Persecution their most accessible and cohesive offering yet. I share Kronos‘ conclusions about the Frenchmen’s rocky discography; their fourth full-length remains relatively unspectacular amid the crowded annals of death metal’s echelon. However, progress is unmistakable: Persecution is at its worst a step in the right direction, at best a solid album with tons of potential for future success from a band we wrongly assumed was only noise.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Krucyator Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 5th, 2021

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