Hailing from France, Autokrator are by far one of my current favorites and best kept secrets in the Black/Death underground, and thankfully for myself and others like me, they don’t keep us waiting for long between releases, as they just notched their third album in as many years with Hammer of the Heretics to critical acclaim. Now, to give my own two cents, I’ll just say right off the bat that this album absolutely fucking crushes and while the same can be said of their prior two efforts, Hammer of the Heretics throws a bit of a curve ball to the listener, as it demonstrates that this project is capable of delivering death blows in more ways than one.
Beginning with towering, reverberating riffs and gradual building of anticipation, Autokrator resumes its throne as one of the heaviest acts in the scene today with the opening track “Against Flesh and Blood,” a song that shows a bit more patience and ebb and flow than typical of the project to this point, slowing the pace down with doomier soundscapes that bludgeon twofold between rumbling bass, huge riffs, and deep guttural vocals, and it this is shift in approach that by and large typifies the album as a whole. Additionally, the drumming on this release is absolutely outstanding and much more diverse in nature than before, as the session drummer used makes full use of his kit throughout, not only pummeling the listener with the rapid fire blasts you’d expect, but also with an array of cymbal use as well, brilliantly accenting each riff change and shift in pace along the way.
While the opening track serves as an apt teaser of what is to come, the nature of this album really reveals itself in the following track “Le Sang Impur,” a song that clocks in at over nine and a half minutes and doesn’t waste a single second of play time, as Autokrator unleash this sprawling beast with calculated, layered precision before slowly fading to the sounds of eerie chimes and tortured screams that only get worse on the following interlude. If you thought the torture was over, its not – not by a long shot, as this individuals Hell has only just begun it seems as the minutes pass and the lashes and flaying of flesh can be heard amongst a man speaking in French, presumably the one presiding over the merciless expulsion of this individual, and perhaps, humanity at large.
Coming out of this deep, dark pit, Autokrator hurl the listener headlong into the title track with a show of force they’ve become known for in the form of point blank machine gun fire blast beats and huge guitar tone that drips with might and strength, pounding listener repeatedly with soundscapes of dread that could only be dreamt up by histories most infamous tyrants. Another lengthy effort, this title track comes in at over eight and a half minutes and the only breathing room that can be found is in blood drenched reverb and militaristic pounding that soaks the air with an atmosphere of cruelty the likes of which this project has not yet touched on, as the doomier aesthetic seems to suit them rather well.
Adding yet another layer to the fold, Autokrator clench their fist around the throat of humanity ever tighter in these moments and its on the closing track “Inquisitio-Denunciatio-Exceptio” that they find their greatest triumph yet, plunging unsuspecting ears into six and a half minutes of mid paced pounding and excruciatingly devastating death blows. Bringing the hammer down once more in grandiose fashion, marked by one of the heaviest break downs in Death Metal you’re likely to ever hear, Autokrator round out their latest output with their most doomed out, colossal sounding effort to date with a final show of fury, blasting their way down the home stretch, exacting their remorseless excursion against the plague that is Man in a big, bold way.
I’ve been saying it for years, and I’ll say it again: don’t fucking sleep on Autokrator, they’re doing something no one else in the scene is doing right now with their attack and not only does this killing machine show no signs of stopping, they’re evolving and perfecting their craft, and that is just downright scary.