Release year: 2021
Label: Krucyator Productions
Continuing with their brand of stern, harsh and vicious death metal (with hints of black metal here and there), French Autokrator are back with the successor to their 2018 album, Hammer Of The Heretics (reviewed here). Fans of the previous album will feel at home, though the album as a whole sounds somewhat more conventional – the sound and production are less “out there” this time around.
The album has a concept running through it, though I’m not sure it can be called a conceptual album as such. As can be surmised from the name, Persecution is about the persecution of early christians in the Roman Empire. There certainly is a certain oppressiveness to the sound, that’s for sure!
Taking hints from bands walking close by to the thin and often somewhat ambiguous line between black and death metal, Autokrator often veer into blackened territory but retain their roots in death metal territory. The promo sheet drops a name such as Teitanblood as reference, and whilst one can certainly hear some of their downtuned bestial black metal in here, Autokrator doesn’t cross over entirely.
Driven by sharp, vicious riffing and pummeling, precise drumwork, Autokrator’s brand of extreme metal rolls on like a steamroller. Interspersed with moments of military percussion and rhythmic chanting, there’s even a subtle symphonic, majestic atmosphere to some of the tracks – without over-indulging in synths. The result is a somewhat odd mixture where the symphonic nature of some of the compositions wouldn’t be out of place on a Behemoth album, but the overall sound is far sterner, darker and more cavernous.
Sadly, whilst there undeniably are many good things on Persecution, there are also some things which leave something to be desired. One is the sound: a lot of the time the drums sound thin and clicking instead of pounding, and the guitars aren’t always as dominating in the mix as one would hope for. This to some extent causes another problem, which is a certain flatness of atmosphere in especially the faster tracks. It’s brutal and heavy and vicious and gruff and stern, yes, all of that, but at times Persecution is also lamentably short on atmosphere.
In comparison to the previous album, I must admit I prefer it to this. Whilst in no major sense significantly weaker than the predecessor, Persecution also never manages to be quite as intriguing. I’ve found myself coming back to Hammer Of The Heretics from time to time; I don’t think I shall do so at least as much with Persecution.
Persecution is not a bad album by any means. There are definite moments of glory here: my particular favourite is Caesar Narva Traianus with its lengthy instrumental intro, militant drumwork and the bombastic chant of the sparsely used vocals. Coupled with sound effects and samples of combat, it evokes imagery of ancient colosseums where christians were fed to the lions. Sadly, the rest of the album doesn’t quite rise to this level.
I wouldn’t go as far as to call the album a disappointment, though. I do admit that my hopes were higher, and whilst some of them do go unanswered, Persecution is still a decent slab of cavernous, stern and blackened death metal.