Acherontas – Ma-Ion (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) ALBUM REVIEW

I’ve said this before, but I feel like I need to say this again because it’s so relevant here; great ambient sections are my biggest metal weakness. The actual music can be only ok, but if the ambient is great, I’m gonna give it a high score. That’s one of my biases and I recognize that. Every reviewer has stuff like that and I’m no exception, even though I try really hard to be fair. So keep that in mind when I review this album, because this album is only about 40% metal or so. To me, that’s not a bad thing, but I could see how others would think that’s a turnoff (which is probably responsible for this album’s low score on this site). However to me, as long as it’s infused into the metal and done well, it’s totally fine. And this album is more than totally fine. This has some of the best ambient sections, metal or not, that I’ve ever heard. And the best part is that it still has plenty of metal to keep the album going instead of just getting lost in ambiance.

Probably the single best thing about this album is something I always look for when reviewing works and that most bands always fail, and that’s coherently combining different influences together instead of just treating them as separate entities. Now, what Acherontas doesn’t do is literally put their tribal and ritual ambient sections and just put blast beats on them. That would be messy. What they do to make the transition seem seamless and have it not be jarring at all is really subtle, but important. In many of their ambient sections, they will use metal instruments as a part of the ambient section. So for instance, on “Shaman and the Waning Moon” (my favorite track on the album), despite it being a completely ambient track, the drums are used as part of the ambient, but not to make a beat. It’s hard to explain unless you hear it, but think of it like someone just kinda playing around with the sound of the drum rather than specifically playing with them, only it actually sounds good. There are also sections where the guitar is used in a similar fashion. It’s such a subtle thing, but it really makes everything flow together, because you don’t have to fully switch from metal mode to ambient mode because there’s just enough metal in the ambient sections to keep it flowing well.

More on the ambient sections, they do a fantastic job of creating a mystic, occult feeling throughout the entire album. Sounds of amazonian flutes, ominous drums, occasional chanting, I always imagine myself deep in the amazonian jungle, witness the sacrifice of a virgin to appease the gods for one more year. I have never come across a band creating such a feeling like that this year, where you can so vividly imagine a scenario in your mind as you listen. There’s such a primitiveness in it, which really fits in with black metal as a whole, as so much of extreme metal is primal urges. Satanism is all about giving into your instinctual desires after all.

But this is a metal album, not an ambient album, so I do have to mention that too. It is obvious that the metal components of this record aren’t nearly pronounced, and when they are done, they aren’t done in the most incredible manner possible, but they are certainly done well enough to not bog down the record. This is especially prevalent when instead of backing up the actual vocals, they are backing up chanting. It gives a truly epic feel that I don’t think can be generated through traditional black metal. Harmonically there’s not much interesting, though I think if there was any sort of technical or progginess in this album it would be very out of place. This is all about going back to the tribal and basic after all. So on that front, it very much fits with the aesthetic. I think the best musical parts of the album are actually when they just drone chords with the vocals. I really wish this was utilized more, as these moments are mostly brief and afterwards they go right into blast beats. One final thing I want to mention that i find the biggest achievement in Ma-Ion is that they managed to make a 70 minute album not boring in the slightest. I initially saw that length and thought for sure it would be a dud, but I was very much pleasantly surprised with what I got.

So why is this album a 9.75 rather than a 10? When it comes to the difference between ratings this high, it’s typically the small things that keep it from reaching the maximum score. For one, the spoken word section on the 8th track goes on for way too long and really takes you out of the album. At first it’s kinda cool, but then it goes on and since there isn’t anything else to really supplant it, you start wondering when it’s going to be over until finally the next ambient section kicks in. If this had only been about a minute or so nothing would’ve been wrong but as is it lasted way too long for what it brought. Also the first solo on Therionic Transformation was extremely lackluster to say the least. And while true, the second solo was fantastic and dare I say epic, it didn’t fit with the rest of the album. It seemed to brainy for what this work is trying to accomplish, as it was very much laden with heavy metal influence. Don’t get me wrong, I like heavy metal influence in pretty much anything, but not for this album. But really, I think the main reason this doesn’t get a 10 is just gut feeling. When it comes down to it, the difference between a 9.75 and a 10 is just what the album feels like to me, and this doesn’t feel like a 10. It’s not something I can really explain fully, it’s just what I feel like when I listen to things.

It’s really hard to make a closer for this, because I feel like I’ve exhausted just about everything in this album (I haven’t, but I did just about as much as I could with my current ability). It’s ambient sections are god tier, and it’s instrumentals are adequate enough to not be a deterrent. Also this is my first 1000 word review (1100 word in fact)! That’s been a goal of mine for a while now and I seems weird to have finally reached it. I also want to thank everyone for their support, I’m not sure if everyone reads what I write, but I like to think they do, so this is keeping me going in my music writing. Hopefully one day I’ll be writing for a major website or something, but until then, I’ll just ramble on about things to anyone willing to hear, because that’s fun for me.

 9.25/10

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