Sunday, May 17, 2015
Review: AUTOKRATOR - SAME
Autokrator – Same
2015 - Iron Bonehead Productions
France has long held an idolatrous position in the pantheon of cultural meccas, but below all the mushy love-caked bourgeois fluff lays one of the most intense metal scenes in the world. The birthplace of bands like Deathspell Omega, Aosoth, Peste Noir, and the mighty Blut Aus Nord; France continually churns out some of the most interesting and challenging metal, past and present.
Enter Autokrator, a band that claims no influence or allegiance to the lauded French metal scene, yet whose sound falls in line with the tradition of crushing mind-fuckery many have come to expect from this corner of the globe. While Autokrator play a brand of death/industrial/drone that doesn’t necessarily share the stage with the chaotic French black metal bands who’ve gained attention over the years, a close listen reveals a lot of similarities in their approach to extreme music.
When I pressed play on the first track of Autokrator’s debut album Same I thought, “Damn! That’s dense!” Dense–--that’s the one word I would use to describe the entire album. In my experience, density in metal music can have two effects: either a band is able to craft a listening experience that continually unfolds with repeat (and patient) listens, or the density is a studio mask covering up a lack of originality.
In the last few years a number of bands' use of density changed the way I listened to music. Darkspace’s 2014 album absolutely destroyed my perception of both black metal and industrial metal, and in 2013 Grave Upheaval created a death metal album so dense it borders on ambient music. But while those albums are shining examples of how to use density to compliment a forward thinking record, there are also bands that try and fail; such as Ritual Chamber on their 2014 album The Pits of Tentacled Screams, which just sounds muddy and sloppy.
So where does Autokrator fall on this spectrum? They (mostly) succeed. For a debut album, Same does a lot of things right. It’s one of the few times I actually feel the word “crushing” is a suitable adjective and not just something you say when you can’t think of an actual description. The atmosphere on Same is fiendishly oppressive, and I think that’s the point. This isn’t meant to be an easy record. If you asked me what my favorite track is, I’m not sure I’d have an answer¬–or maybe I’d say “all of them,” because once Same gets going it’s almost pointless to think of it in terms of individual tracks; these are movements designed to create a singular experience. An experience best described as being trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building during an air raid.
It’s a HEAVY record for sure, but beyond that it’s a record played by a band that knows its strengths. Autokrator play death metal first and foremost, but their core member, Loic.F, was also the mastermind behind the now defunct industrial metal band N.K.V.D., and that industrial influence shines through and permeates the entire album. Same is a very mechanical album. I know that might sound sterile, but in this case the mechanized sounds are mainly used on the low end and add a layer of heft that surrounds the muted riffing and roaring vocals, creating a sonic storm that actually works quite well. Autokrator also tote the drone genre tag, which is a little bit of misdirection because Same is NOT a drone record. The use of drone can be heard in some of the interludes that connect the songs together, but other than that you’d be hard pressed to pick out a drone part while the storm rages.
So, while Autokrator succeed in their use of density on Same, I wouldn’t put it in the same category as Darkspace or Grave Upheaval’s recent albums. It’s an album that shows a ton of promise, but it’s not the most varied thing you’ll hear this year. To their credit, Autokrator don’t seem to care if your mind gets blown, they just want to crush you into dust. Consider me crushed.