The story of the Antichrist Imperium is tightly associated with one of the most prominent bands in the progressive black/death realm, Akercocke. When the great London based band decided to call it quits back in 2012, they left a gaping hole in the extreme metal landscape. But, soon enough members of Akercocke begun to collaborate and kick off new projects. First came Voices, the band led by Peter Benjamin and featured drummer David Gray. Voices focused a more blackened take on the progressive death/black mold. But they were not the only act to channel the infernal spirit of Akercocke. The next one to do so was the Antichrist Imperium, featured once more drummer David Gray, guitarist Matt Wilcock and new Akercocke addition, keyboardist/vocalist Samuel Loynes. Founded in 2010 the band unleashed its debut, self-titled album in 2015 and are now returning with their sophomore release in Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan.
The foundational elements of the Antichrist Imperium still exist in overlap with Akercocke’s vision. The progressive death/black basis acts as a launching pad, where the ideas of the band are born. But they do not remain static in their infant stage. The main focus of the Antichrist Imperium is the move towards a more metallically defined black/thrash sound. The technical aptitude also points towards that end, featuring more of the frenetic energy of the ’80s thrash scene rather than the brutal essence of ’90s death metal. The chugging guitars are a big part of this thrash-oid attitude from the band, capable of tying the record to a steady pace. “Death Ritual” for example features this to an extreme, and within this motif, the additional flourishes, in lead parts and blast beats, truly shine. It creates a more organic continuity between the thrash influence and the black approach, as tracks like “Golgothian Hieros Gamos” reveal.
Another element that separates the Antichrist Imperium is their use of melodies. Even though the album is firmly standing on the extreme edge of the spectrum and is definitely a challenging listen, it still provides a fair number of hooks that make it more accessible. The opening track features this mentality through some of the stunning lead work, as does the final part of “Ceremonial Suicide Rites”. These expansive melodies wash over the soundscapes and alter the bitterness that the progressive black/death assault arrives with.
The final ingredient within this recipe is, of course, the clean breaks that the band incorporates within the structures. That is also the attribute that most highlights the multifaceted approach that the band takes. The Antichrist Imperium can slither through the various modes naturally, switching the vocal delivery from cutthroat black metal vocals and gory death metal growls to ethereal, clean chants. The extreme rendition that comes in with “Draw Down the Moon” leads to this clean and yet eerie and trippy start of “Liturgy of the Iconoclast”. It is a coalition between different realms, and it is the central part of the band’s identity.
The only downside in the case of the Antichrist Imperium is the same as with Voices, in their resemblance with the sound that Akercocke established. Obviously, this is not a bad thing, and it is expected considering the shared members between the bands. And still, the Antichrist Imperium attempt to move further outside the confinements of this trademark sound, by incorporating the thrashier elements and adding a more potent dose of melody to the mix. And it makes Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan an enticing ride, but it still is not enough to make them a standalone entity.