From the deepest darkest depths of sunny Spain, AKERBELTZ was born. We're not talking about […]
By Oil Gonzalez
June 6, 2022
Akerbeltz - Merciless album cover

From the deepest darkest depths of sunny Spain, AKERBELTZ was born. We're not talking about the goat headed mythical creature either. Since 1996, the solo project of the same name has spawned multiple full length albums, comprising of traditionally unholy black metal. Solo projects are always interesting, especially when it's in the image of one person and one person only, with no external red tape, creative compromise, or trying to gain buy in from other members. However, sometimes it's better to have external filters and the opinion of others to gain that insight and a better overall product. Nonetheless, Akerbeltz has been around the block and has released multiple albums as a solo musician. A lot of black metal albums I've reviewed have suffered from awful production, so I'll be watching out for this.

Now, the album kicks off with "Above The Darkness". I was surprised. I loved that ominous atmospheric drone like opening. I loved the tempo changes too, whether it was the slow bludgeoning grooves that allow you to feel and appreciate the full intensity and speed of those brutal blast beats! The guitars sound full and in your face. Perhaps too much treble for my liking, and not enough low end though. The song has a retrograde feel, but I can see evidence of modern production techniques so I do think this is deliberate, to get that traditional feel. "Kingdom Of Terror" I found interesting. Opening with a supersonic blast beat, this had my attention. Again, there's a good variety of tempo and texture within this song. I'm getting a melodic death metal vibe too from the guitars, similar to that of AT THE GATES.

One of the more groovier tracks on the album, "End at the Gallows". What on earth are those vocals though?! I'll be blunt; they're uncomfortable to listen to! Whilst it's somewhat impressive to reach those evil high notes and shrieks, it's not working for me. Why not stick to what worked in the first 2 songs? Thankfully, normality is resumed in "Rejected from the Vortex". This has a style similar to that of SATYRICON, and the vocals are much better. A more traditional KVLT shriek combined with some gutturals for the first time. I can appreciate the low end coming from the bass and drums locking in, something woefully absent in many black metal albums. Thus combining traditional black metal with more modern production.

Sadly, whilst I was listening to "Bearers of the Light" and "Everyone else's Extinction", I did start to think the sound was becoming repetitive and to be honest, difficult to give my attention to. In both songs, there was some variety with tempo changes. Maybe the guitar tone is what's becoming too repetitive for me. Maybe mix up the dynamics and have some quieter parts? Just something to break up what's slowly becoming monotonous. Slower quieter parts? That's exactly what I got in "Litanies of the Restless". The pace screeches and slows to a near glacial drip. The slow ominous drone  makes me feel anxious and on edge, but in the best way possible. Only because I've no idea what ungodly evil crescendo is coming next! Nice. More of that please! More of the atmospheric elements which you're clearly skilled at writing!

I was being very critical from here on in and trying to find evidence of fresh ideas, offering something different than generic black metal. "The Fall" opens with a miniature drum solo, and I could see bass fills creeping into the mix, just enough to keeps things fresh and interesting. The album finishes with "Zozo Demon". There's some absolutely delightful guitar work here and some demonic solos, with a full tone that's piercing and down right evil! The song and album cleverly finishes with the same drone passage we heard in the opening song. As if giving us time to reflect on the carnage we had just witnessed.

Overall, I'd say this is a brave attempt at producing a traditional black metal album with splashes of modern production and other compositional ideas. Maybe there's too much filler sadly. I would have loved to have seen more of the slower ambient elements, which Akerbeltz is clearly talented at! Maybe I just need to delve more into his back catalogue, which I intend to.

6 / 10

Had Potential








"Merciless" Track-listing:

1. Above The Darkness
2. Kingdom Of Terror
3. End at the Gallows
4. Rejected From The Vortex
5. Bearers of the Light
6. Everyone else's Extinction
7. Litanies of the Restless
8. The Fall
9. Zozo Demon

Akerbeltz Lineup:

Akerbeltz - All Instruments and Vocals

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