Acherontas - Vamachara
Agonia Records
Black Metal
7 songs (45:22)
Release year: 2011
Agonia Records
Reviewed by Charles
Long-running Greek black metal act Acherontas’s Vamachara is an esoteric work: perhaps is unlikely to have much appeal beyond its curious niche, but for those that actively seek it out it has certain distinctive rewards. Firstly, it has to be said that the promo material makes this sound more tempting than it really is (at least to my hipster ears): much is made of the 70s psychedelic and occult rock influences, which to me suggests something like cultish Americans Negative Plane. But that isn’t the case at all. Instead, this is an oddball take on puritan early black metal- Ulver’s Bergtatt quite often springs to mind- which concentrates almost entirely on pouring forth deep streams of weird melody.

The album’s defining characteristic is its weirdly distended sound- almost like a more traditional version of Krallice’s multitracking madness. As first proper track Blood Current Opener takes over from the sci-fi swooshing of introductory Opening the Eye of the Storm, the listener is dropped into- not a maelstrom, or a blizzard, or any of those other terms we use instinctively to describe black metal- but what we might call a swirling whirlpool of meloblack riffing. Multiple harmonised lead lines weave in and out of each other in a winding polyphony, generating an effect that is not really heavy for long stretches, or much of the time even aggressive, but instead conjures an enigmatic melodicism. This strangeness is heightened by a couple of other factors. Firstly, the moaning Virus-like vocals that surface here and there, which lend Vamachara a spookily ritualistic feel. And secondly, the ever-shifting nature of the riffing itself. Every track here twists its way through different moods, ranging from backbeated mid-tempo blackened rock to gloweringly graceful slow sections in which those polyphonic leads seem to glide over the thumping (but rarely really blasting) percussion. Throughout these regular transitions, though, and aside from some slightly ill-fitting interludes like the Melechesh-aping Ohm Krim Kali, Acherontas’s approach rarely deviates from this basic emphasis on intertwined melodic leads.

Sometimes, then, Vamachara comes together genuinely impressively, with a bewitching tunefulness to rival meloblack greats like Dissection or compatriots Rotting Christ. Abraxas begins with a floating chorus of unaccompanied lead lines, as if the multiple guitar tracks are seeking to emulate a reverential a capella choral work. But then it shifts gear first up into a pumping rock section and then down again into a climactic black metal fanfare, making for a twisting and invigorating listening experience. The title track summons an impressive speed, with ramshackle guitar licks worming their way around clattering blastbeats in a manner that hints at an attempt to match the haywire technicality of someone like Abgott. Instead, though, the haphazard assembling of the piece and its frantic, gasping vocals give it a punkish appeal that I find more endearing.

Still, the overall impression is that Acherontas don’t quite have the sheer firepower to set the black metal world alight. Rarely do you feel the kind of earth-shaking, heaven-storming climaxes that characterises the most furious of orthodox black metal, and instead the album’s appeal stems from its deep sense of melody. Undoubtedly, a worthwhile curiousity.

Killing Songs :
Abraxas, Vamachara
Charles quoted 73 / 100
Other albums by Acherontas that we have reviewed:
Acherontas - Ma-IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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