Akercocke are a hybrid of death, black, progressive, and electronic metal. It is kind of weird to think that fans of Emperor and fans of Rush might both like a band, but Akercocke’s unique bombast seems to have a wide appeal. Granted, they are a band that is not for everyone—hardened metal fans will be annoyed at the progressive parts and vice versa.
Akercocke disappeared from the world in 2007 after their release of Antichrist, which while not a bad album didn’t really stand out from the rest of their discography. The band officially disbanded a few years later, and it would seem that was it for our British metal maestros.
I was surprised to hear that they were reforming this last year. Honestly, I was worried that the new album wouldn’t have much to say. A ten-year absence is quite a long time, and earlier this year I chastised Decrepit Birth for taking seven years to produce an album. Early interviews with the reformed band also caused a bit of confusion among fans, Jason Mendonca mentioned that the album would have a positive vibe, which worried me. Akercocke’s sound has always been bombastic, but there is also a thread of darkness around it, particularly in Choronzon where the songs might have melodies but there is always a vibe that is both alluring and off-putting. Discomfort and creepiness abound in their early work as there is a clear striving toward darkness within the sound.
Renaissance in Extremis defies my concerns in almost every way. The album truly feels like a progression from Choronzon and the band appears to not have missed a beat. I do say that this feels more like a progression form Choronzon than Antichrist because the latter felt more like Choronzon II than a new evolution of sound. Renaissance is at once familiar and new, meaning it is most definitely an Akerocke album, but they are pushing the genres more this time around.
There is more of an atmospheric and electronic feel to many of the songs—as though they are striving for a hypnotic transcendence. I disagree that the album abounds with positivity, but I can see where people are coming from. I hate to use the term epic (mainly because it has been overused and essentially means nothing now), but that seems to be the vibe that they are striving for. This is not to say that Akerocke is now trying for shoegaze black metal (they aren’t). Akercocke is more interested in created an atmospheric experience that is unsettling without being drenched in darkness. The track Familiar Ghosts is probably the clearest example of this vibe.
However, Akercocke are still very much a metal band. Good riffs and pummeling segments will jar you out of the hypnotic moments with crushing efficiency. The album opens with Disappear, which serves as a microcosm of the album as a whole. Almost every song weaves together the numerous genres that Akerocke work within. Some tracks remain almost entirely progressive, and these work as well. Inner Sanctum offers up a solid slab of technical melody that is highly listenable, though I did prefer the demo version of the track.
Perhaps most impressively is that there is not a single dud on the album. If I had to pick a track that is not as strong as the others the only standout is A Final Glance Back Before Departing, which isn’t a bad track, but the trademark experimentation doesn’t fully work here. In all honesty, I have begun to skip this track on repeat listenings. The album ends with the two most melodic and mellow tracks on the album. Some folks might not enjoy capping off with this, but I thought it was an interesting end to a fantastic album.
Overall, Akerocke have carved out a unique place in the metal world. I am glad that they have returned, and hopefully we will hear more from them before 2027. This is one of the best albums of the year, and it might even be my album of the year. Buy this album. 9.5/10