Acherontas – Vamachara Review

It’s always refreshing when a band doesn’t make a guy guess. Greece’s Acherontas plays a very familiar, easy-to-digest and dare I say comfortable brand of dark, “occult” black metal. Their combination of intertwining, countering tremolo riffs, incessant blast beats, mid-range vocals, and minor-key melodies bring to mind everyone from Emperor and Mayhem to Dissection and even Nightbringer. On Vamachara, the third long-player under the Acherontas moniker, they compose with an orchestrated sensibility, crafting songs that are like symphonic black metal minus the actual symphonic sound. It’s an undoubtedly classic and tried-and-true style that at times is extremely engaging.

But only at times. Acherontas certainly executes this classic sound with excellent execution, but they often lack the ability to keep their compositions focused. Much of the album’s middle – after the smoking “Blood Current Illumination” – meanders to the point of creating dead space. “Abraxas” shifts styles pointlessly, slowing the album’s momentum before the title track’s first half pummels the listener with three minutes of music that is painfully ordinary. A return to their tremolo swarms helps the song, but it is largely too late, and the following six-minute interlude almost kills Vamachara in its tracks.

That said, when the band focuses, they create some truly staggering black metal. The aforementioned “Blood Current Illumination” and closing duo of “Beyond the Mazeways to Ophidian Gnosis” and “Drakonian Womb” reveal an Acherontas that is far more adept at weaving complex song structures than the middle of Vamachara would have one believe. The 10-minute closer is especially well done, showing off the band’s melodic attack while spicing things up with some Si Monumentum-era Deathspell Omega eeriness and Attila Csihar-styled tortured vocal preaching. It’s enough to make you forget how bored you were for 15 minutes, but it also carries a deceptive quality, leaving the listener with a better taste in their mouth than the entire album rightfully should. It is also ironic – and more than a bit puzzling – how, on an album with such pacing issues, the two strongest songs are also the longest.

It’s honestly a right damn shame that Acherontas wrote a full-length instead of an EP, as there is a good 25 minutes’ worth of very inspired material on Vamachara. Too bad the album is 45 minutes long. The digital age makes it easier to skip through the borefest portion, but in a year already filled to the brim with excellent, no-filler black metal (Aosoth, Saille, Wolves in the Throne Room… I could keep going), it’s hard to give a strong recommendation to something in need of an edit, even if parts of it are quite accomplished.

Posted by Zach Duvall

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; Obnoxious overuser of baseball metaphors.

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