Elderblood – Achrony Review

Blasphemy and the rejection of religion is not a new thing to black metal at all, but geography does play a part. As Diabolus in Muzaka mentioned in his review for Elderblood’s Messiah, there’s something distinctly Polish about these Ukrainians. Christianity, especially the heavily ritualized flavor of Eastern Orthodox, runs deep in Slavic heritage – especially considering the virtual elimination of traditional Slavic religion at the hands of Christian tyrants. Nergal’s continuing rejection of Polish theocratic movements, Batushka’s use of Russian Orthodoxy, and Elderblood’s latest album cover have all shown the region’s unflinching hate. With these Ukrainians, you can expect vitriol and blasphemy in the fullest measure.

Elderblood’s third full-length lives up to its stark cover. Sacrificing subtlety in favor of blasting fury, “The Great Fire of Sacrifice” offers a taste of what’s to come, in a track that balances spiraling riffs, blasting sermons, unhinged drumming, and just enough symphonic textures to drive the point home, Achrony strays even further from their debut’s folky beginnings. There is little hokey or cheesy about Elderblood, and its similarities to symphonic or blackened death acts like Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth, SepticFlesh, or Dissection are simply a well to draw from. What results is an album that flashes moments of brilliance and overwhelms with its extraordinary anger, although its excessive length and symphonic over-saturation can dim this fiery insanity.

I must confess that my knowledge of symphonic adherents of the blackened arts is limited. I have heard little of Dimmu Borgir and Carach Angren, while Kataxu and Vordven make sporadic appearances in my listening. That being said, the keyboard abuse and cheese is blessedly absent from Achrony. Tracks like “Fallen Seraphs,” “Virgin Land Plowed by Death,” and “Soot” are clear highlights for this, balancing staccato riffs, textures of tremolo, wild solos, and symphonic flourishes to stand alongside Astargh’s formidable shrieks and roars. Describing it as unhinged is a bit of an understatement, as every element exudes fire and chaos into a pure distillation of fury. “The One Who Has Not Yet Come” and “The New Testament” utilize the same elements through an ominous plodding structure and plucking, recalling Evangelion-era Behemoth and Dissection to create the ambiance of unholy rapture, a front-row seat of a burning church collapsing in on itself.

There are two things standing in the way of our experience of these Ukrainian’s raw fury: symphonic textures overstaying their welcome, and the album itself overstaying its welcome. Too many symphonic flavors have a potential to cross into cheesy Dimmu Borgir territory, but to Elderblood’s credit, it only manages to water down the fiery clarity. “Holy Plague” and “Life Eternal” are most at fault, as the reliance on keys simply drowns out the stringed attack, overpowering the chunky riffs and pushing into derivative territory. The latter also features strange samples of laughter and hollers, which feel more like the soundtrack of a frat party rather than the menacing blasphemy it was intended to be. These spoken word or musical samples show up regularly, and their reception will undoubtedly be mixed. For instance, use in “The One Who Is Yet to Come” sets the tone for the haunting moods to follow, while “Sainthood’s Stench” remains rather stagnant because of it. Finally, Achrony clocks in at a whopping fifty-seven minutes of blackened insanity, exhausting given the nearly relentless quality of Elderblood’s music.

In many ways, Achrony does remind me quite a bit of Svabhavat’s Black Mirror Reflection from last year. Both offer pure blackened insanity in a scene crowded with pretentious bullshit, content with raw tones of fury rather than pushing the boundaries of the sound. There’s something refreshing about Elderblood, that while they offer complexity and technicality, their vitriol and hate is remarkably straightforward, oozing out of Achrony’s every orifice. Its tracks of symphonic gaudiness fall short and by and large, it is simply too long, but if you’re looking for aural fury and blasphemous insanity, look no further.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Drakkar Productions
Websites: elderblood.churchelderblood.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/elderblood
Releases Worldwide: July 9th, 2021

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