Autokrator – Persecution


French death metal duo, Autokrator, are not a conventional band in any shape or form. They mix the sinister ambience of Portal with the might of Deicide and the black metal bite of early Mayhem. Now on their fourth album, they’re back with another exploration of blood-soaked history, this time chronicling the torture and suffering of Christians under the Roman emperors before Constantine the Great converted and adopted Christianity as the state religion in the early fourth century. If you’re going to write a death metal album about grotesque beheadings and people being mauled by wild beasts, why not revisit Imperial Rome?

What is it about French death metal that makes it so perfidious and ugly compared to other scenes? Like Mercyless and Putrid Offal, Autokrator don’t bother with technical wizardry or anything post-1992. This is music that douses you in the blood of slaughtered animals and leaves you dangling before a group of cannibals like a helpless mouse in the clutches of a lion. Opener, ‘De Gloria Martyrum Et Confessorum’ makes it clear within one note that Autokrator are just as interested in inflicting a thousand slow cuts against your skin as they are in swiping your head from your shoulders. The brutal palm-muted chugs and chilling double-kick rhythms feed off an eerie atmospheric layer of guitar noise that resembles a pressure cooker about to explode. “Let those who

have refused/ To sacrifice to the gods/ Be scourged and beheaded,” intones vocalist, David Bailey, in a deep phonation that sounds like a cassette tape on the slowest playback setting. He imagines the cruel delights of the Emperor Diocletian on ‘The Great Persecution’, a man who was surely the greatest tormentor of Christianity in the Imperial Roman age. There’s no doubting the malevolence of this band when you hear the draining guitar downstrokes and crunchy syncopation vying for supremacy with the rhythmic prowess of France’s premier extreme metal drummer, Kevin Paradis (Benighted).

Those losing patience with Triptykon’s slow progress in following up on their 2014 effort will find much to enjoy here. ‘DCLXVI’ includes a scary gang chant of the Emperor Domitian’s name as the chorus, while the nine minutes and forty-nine seconds of ‘Anti-Christus’ recreate the mood of a solemn execution parade among a cacophony of slow-building riffs and brooding bass lines. French black metal veterans, Seth, come to mind here – David Bailey’s vocals are hostile to the point of making you feel grateful you’ll never have to meet him. That barrier between band and audience is a real one, like an emperor’s court shielded from the plebs. This is never a bad thing. Death metal bands can be elitist and strident without alienating their audience – look at Morbid Angel. You wonder if the Floridian masters are still capable of writing a song as clever as ‘Caesar Nerva Traianus’. Perhaps, Cauldron Black Ram are a better comparison – the guitar distortion reeks of charnel house bones and burnt flesh. The atmospherics wail in the background like Christians rejected from the pearly gates of heaven.

Only one thing stops Persecution from achieving its full menace – the vocals are sometimes too monotone and need more aggression. Like Imperial Triumphant, this aspect of the music is the least imaginative and most underappreciated. Your mind will begin to wander if you listen to this album without referring to the order of songs or their titles.

But in a world of saturation, Autokrator are a breath of foul air. Their music is nasty yet sophisticated and seldom stale.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 05/11/2021

Record Label: Krucyator Productions

Standout tracks: De Gloria Martyrum Et Confessorum, DCLXVI, Caesar Nerva Traianus

Suggested Further Listening: Celtic Frost – Monotheist (2006), Seth – La Morsure Du Christ (2021), Morbid Angel – Covenant (1993)