Oh, fancy lads of Akercocke. You do the dress up thing, you sing of Satan and blasphemy, and you play a beguiling progressive death metal that would make many upstarts weep with jealousy. I am not always taken with you, particularly when you go lower than “large pig swallowing another pig” in your vocal range, but damn if the music on Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone isn’t some of the best death metal in the last 15 years.
The extent of my history with Akercocke prior to buying Words That Go Unspoken… was that a) they dressed in suits, b) they were Satanic, and c) their prior albums all had nudity on the cover. To date I still haven’t really listened to any of their earlier albums beyond a cursory listen to tell me I wasn’t missing that much despite a) kinda digging the fact they wear suits, b) generally finding overtly Satanic lyrics to be not only harmless, but usually silly and c) being okay with nudity. So make of that what you will. I know a lot of people out there really love the early stuff with the post-punk influences and Choronzon seems to get a lot of love for being similar to Words That Go Unspoken… but with Akercocke I feel I got exactly what I needed with this album (I also have Antichrist which I’ll cover tomorrow) and I’m more than content to pop this in whenever I need a dose of what the lads have to offer.
“Verdelet” pretty much has everything on offer: sweeping syncopated riffs, off-kilter time changes, an almost Fates Warning sense of progression, and in Jason Mendonça one of the most versatile vocalists in metal. The one thing I will say about Choronzon is that yes there is a good amount of technicality in the death/black stew, but here it’s taken up to 11. “Seduced” ups the ante with some sterling solos, something really accentuated with the on-boarding of Matt Wilcox after the departure of original member Paul Scanlan (who has since returned). But the really powerhouse listening back now is David Gray on drums. I probably was infatuated with the guitars and riffs when I first heard the album, but so much of what works on Words That Go Unspoken… works because of how precise and inventive Gray is in his playing. That and Mendonça’s clean vocals: damn they are nice. The quiet section in the middle of the epic “Shelter From the Sand” right before it kicks into ultra prog is frankly gorgeous.
Reading along with the lyrics I remember working through my feelings as a Christian (this may shock you, but yeah, I do identify as such in my own thoroughly skewed and awkward way) with some of the content, and basically chalking it up to theatrics. That’s a bit of a disservice; for every exclamation of Celebrate Satan / In every eager orifice / Slick wet orifice / Insatiable dark angels / Naked! / Ecstatic! from “The Penance” there’s more serious and philosophical rumination about seeing through reality and the nature of the universe as laid out on the title track. But for the most part I still find it the bright and shiny dressing that adorns some of the best and wicked death metal this side of the material plane. It’s been a while since I revisited either Akercocke or this album (I did really enjoy the reunion album Renaissance in Extremis); if it’s been a while for you I would definitely recommend coming back to it – this is sharp…so very sharp.