Aklash – Reincarnation


Brighton’s blackened heavy metal warriors, Aklash, released their first LP in 2013 and managed two more since then in 2018 and 2021. The feeling on album number four is that they’ve stepped up a gear and married their love of Manowar with the malevolence of Mayhem. It’s true that Reincarnation has a martial thrust to it that could lead the charge of the light brigade.

Clearly, Aklash see no need to turn clichés into badges of honour, unlike the tongue-in-cheek humour of the blackened speed metal artists. They rip through the extreme metal washing machine in the opening title-track and stay within this paradigm for the first minute and ten seconds under the spell of a bloodthirsty shriek. Then, they switch to a traditional heavy metal thrust but with the unique pomp of the Sisters of Mercy instead of Saxon. It has its charms the way that danger has its charms if you’re in control of it. You can rip your shirt off your chest when the vocals harmonise over the top of blast beats, but it deserves to be done in the spirit of courage rather than humour. There are no drop-tuned guitars here, but you’ll find plenty of classic 1970s rock underneath the exterior of malevolence.

Is Reincarnation a subtle folk metal album? This question pops up at various points of the listening experience. Mournful flutes and delicate plucks of the acoustic guitar set the scene for a warrior’s funeral in ‘Communion with Ghosts’. Listen how the axemen step on the distortion and play the flute part as if continuing a fugue. Here, the shrieking vocals give way to a multi-harmony chorus as easily as Manowar. You can follow the six-string action by concentrating on the vocal lines. Therion do something similar on their trilogy of Leviathan albums. Can you feel the knuckles of your hands burying into your bosom?

Of course, there are some pompous moments that are difficult to absorb without a wry smile. You’ll want to brandish a sword as the word “Babylon, Babylon, Babylon, Babylon,” works through the octaves with each utterance to test how far the human voice can go in the song of the same title. The high tempo is infectious, yet it’s the bass that carries it on the paddle of a d-beat. Martial honour and chivalry are the overriding emotions in ‘Cossack’. The melodic heavy metal angle helps to balance the black metal assault like the importance of officers drilling soldiers into the right habits. “Restless and resolute between the Kaiser and the Tzar / But every tyrant who dared to venture here has had his dignity marred!” roars Nicholas Millar in honour of the Ukrainian people’s most famous ancestors. 

Might we call Aklash romantic idealists? Their determination to gallop through every song suggests we should. Doing it by sailing close to the dangers of lunacy is a risk (ask Metallica’s protagonist in ‘Battery’), but it works in the four-minute epic of ‘Kaval’. Perhaps there is one criticism you can level at this band – their steadfastness in producing an epic mood allows plenty of room to point the figure and laugh at the clichés. Closing track, ‘My Will Made Manifest’, loses some of its appeal by the misfortune of being at the end of the album, although its prog musicianship does a good job of retaining your focus with the interplay between bass and lead guitar in the middle parts.

Aklash aim to excite, and they do a good job of lifting the blood pressure levels even if your cheekbones curl in the more absurd parts of their music.


Verdict


Release Date: 20/06/2024

Record Label: Self-released

Standout tracks: Reincarnation, Babylon, Cossack

Suggested Further Listening: Dread Sovereign – Alchemical Warfare (2021), Bewitcher – Cursed Be Thy Kingdom (2021), Witchery – Nightside (2022)