Free Metal Detector: Akakor
There is no stranger release than the post-breakup record. Typically composed of scraps and unfinished ideas, these odd time capsules offer rare insight into the internal dynamics of a strained creation prior to collapse, but it’s rare that the quality matches the hype. Enter Akakor, a skronked-out tech death wrecking machine finally offering us a look at a band that might have been but never truly was. All that’s left is a relic, but what a relic it is. Akakor is a punishing, demanding instrumental piece that sounds more at home in the current metal landscape than the environment in which it was originally created. And now you can enjoy that relic and crack open that time capsule, free of charge. Let’s see what treasures lie within.
The mathcore-meets-dissodeath fourpiece was born out of the dissolution of two previous tech death bands, Nusquam Esse and Army of Moliere. They independently released a 10-minute EP in 2010 called Human Sacrifice before hitting rocky waters internally. As the band reports on their Bandcamp page, which recently surfaced:
8 years ago today, we almost died… 6 years ago we started a recording, we disbanded 5 years ago and today we release the instrumental version of our unreleased album. We were Akakor, this was us.
So what does this instrumental full-length, which presumably would have featured traditional death metal vocals, have in store for modern listeners? How does it fit into metal’s current topography? A lot, and quite well, it would seem.
Akakor seem to have been a band that divined the changing tides in death metal before the dissodeath dam broke. Recall that Gorguts‘ Colored Sands was released in 2013, and other smash skronky hits from Artificial Brain and Pyrrhon landed a solid four years after Akakor would have been released. Akakor’s closest contemporary, then, is Baring Teeth, though Akakor bears more resemblance to Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins than Atrophy, which would have followed hotly on Akakor’s heels. The aptly titled “New Song” features all manner of strange string bends and rhythmic whirlwinds that wouldn’t sound out of place on Baring Teeth’s more progressive sophomore release. Had Akakor persisted, they certainly would have bridged the gap between old school weirdness like Obscura and the new school heaviness like Setentia.
It’s unfortunate that the vocals were never finished for this album, but in some ways I’m happy to hear these little seeds of dissonant ideas that would later come to fruition. As an instrumental piece, the band sounds more like Dysrhythmia than Crator, though the crunchy bass and sinister lead lines certainly touch on ideas later given birth by the latter band and other contemporaries like Withered. And yet, there are still obtuse little flourishes you won’t hear anywhere else in dissodeath. “To Evolve” is accented by a number of echoing, almost eerie licks that hang above the muscular riffs like carrion vultures; it’s an off-putting technique that lends a lot of atmosphere to the band in a way that only Phobocosm seems to deliver, and I’d love to see that sonic idea, as well as the choppy mathcore elements seemingly culled from Human Remains, find themselves given longer legs by other bands in this genre.
Ultimately, Akakor is a buried treasure still caked with some of the imperfections of the earlier era that sired it. I would have preferred to hear an album this crazy with vocals attached. Some of the ideas are a bit unpolished and feel disjointed when compared to each other, and it’s clear in other places that some songs weren’t yet on their final iterations (evidenced by missing titles and sonic motifs not fully fleshed out). Observing this relic, however, it’s impossible to not see the influence it would have had on death metal today. That Akakor can stand in the same company as Labyrinth Constellation and Mother of Virtues is high praise for a defunct band.
Oh, what might have been.