ACROSTICHON - Engraved In Black (DOOMENTIA - LP 2013)
I am and I think I always have been a big fan of the Dutch death metal, with such bands as Asphyx, Gorefest, God Dethroned, Thanatos, Excavation, Delirium, Sinister, Mystic Charm, Pestilence, Beyond Belief, Acrostichon, Eternal Solstice plus few more, which I probably forgot now. This country had unique, heavy feeling when speaking of the sound and style of the bands from Holland and that is why so many of them really were my favourites – and still are, as they are just immortal classics for me. Anyway, here I am going to review another classic album – Acrostichon’s “Engraved In Black”. Well, Acrostichon for sure is one of those bands, which I got to know quite early, as I used to have a cassette version of this album in the mid 90’s, I think it was released by Lout Out, but I am not 100% sure now. I lost this cassette years ago. Recently I’ve noticed that Memento Mori from Spain is going to re-issue this album on CD, with some demo songs as bonus… and wow, just as many similar reissues it quickly ended up on my shipping list. Somehow though I was postponing the purchase, until one day I saw that Doomentia Records from Czech Republic plans to release a vinyl version of “Engraved In Black”. And let’s be honest – to have this record on vinyl became a quick priority for me, as such classics are best to have on this format. More so, Doomentia planned to issue “Engraved In Black” in very special way… and well, now I hold this piece of vinyl in my hands and I can say that The Crypt Records, which used to release the best pieces of vinyl records in recent years, now has a strong competitor, as Doomentia did just absolutely fuckin perfect and damn excellent work with “Engraved In Black”. Holding this album in hands is just something fantastic.
The whole album is housed in heavy and thick cardboard gatefold cover, which trust me is very impressive. Then you open it and see the title: Acrostichon - “Engraved In Black” (Twentieth anniversary edition)… there’s 24 pages booklet glued to the gatefold, so you turn the page and there are some comments from the musicians of Acrostichon and from Paul Speckmann. Cool! And then going through rest of the pages – there are many archive photos, all the lyrics for the album, with each song having a comment, which is something really cool, as this way you can know something more about the whole album, like for example the fact that “Immolation of the Agnostic” was the very first song written by Richard Schouten for Acrostichon (it also opened most of the gigs, which Acrostichon played). Finally there are few graphics in this booklet… and trust me, everyting really does look amazing. The layout, graphics, font, which they used – everything looks absolutely damn impressive.
For this and Memento Mori’s issue of “Engraved In Black” Acrostichon changed the front cover – and I usually moan that I don’t like when bands change the covers when they re-release their albums, as I think that the artwork is also an essential part of the music. They’ve changed the cover here, because – as Richard Schouten wrote – he simply wasn’t happy with the original artwork. And yeah, I definitely agree that this new drawing he did for “Engraved In Black” looks better and actually is damn scary hehe, but I would like to see the original cover used somewhere in the middle of the booklet as well (just like Centinex did for their “Subconscious Lobotomy” reissue – they had new front cover, but the old one has been shown in the booklet). So, it is a bit shame they haven’t reminded us the original artwork, especially that it wasn’t so bad, really… Luckily this new front cover looks great and vinyl edition of “Engraved In Black” contains a huge poster with it. So, the whole vinyl, with its heavy 350 grams cover and booklet looks astonishing. This vinyl is not cheap, but it is worth all money you’ll spend on it. Doomentia did excellent job, in my opinion… and if I had something to moan about then maybe the fact that “Engraved In Black” vinyl edition hasn’t got any Acrostichon demos as bonus (all in all they appeared on the CD version). I actually hoped that there will be a two LP set, with a couple of demos and EPs on the second record as a bonus… Sadly, they haven’t done that, so maybe one day they’ll issue a separate vinyl edition with Acrostichon demos for the collectors? It would be cool.
OK, finally so I have this long sought after vinyl edition of “Engraved In Black”… time to write something about the music, right? Well, Acrostichon is a classic representative of Dutch death metal – and Dutchs were all mainly about the atmosphere, about the heavy, massive death metal, with a lot of doomy parts, but with some more grinding moments here and there. And “Engraved In Black” is a classic example of this style. From the beginning it will certainly remind you such bands as Asphyx, early Gorefest, Mystic Charm and “Consuming Impulse” era Pestilence. On top of these bands, I would mention some American acts, such as Master, Derketa and Mythic – and obviously also Autopsy (so bands, which also had a strong doom influence in their music) and finally in few moments I can also smell a Swedish odour! Think of all these bands, listen to such songs as the mentioned before “Immolation of the Agnostic” and you’ll instantly recognize what do I mean. This song alone has really a strong bond to what Asphyx used to do. There really is a great, slow, doomy, dark and obscure riff, great heavy and massive part, which will crush your bones and flesh into one disgusting and stinking pile of carcass. Unlike Asphyx I think that Acrostichon more often used faster parts, so the music is more dynamic, with a lot of variety between all the songs and is also more brutal, especially with Corinne’s vocals, which are just unearthly (maybe they could have been better, but that woman seriously sounds angry and furious). But seriously, “Engraved In Black” is just a prime old school death metal. I worship such music, with its obscure and dark atmosphere, killer feeling (something all these modern death metal albums are completely lacking), really good, but still slightly raw production (here by Colin Richardson!)… It is priceless for me, to have such albums and listen to them. The time flies, it has already been almost 20 years since I have listened to “Engraved In Black” for the first time, but I still find this LP as something utterly refreshing and I am very enthusiastic to listen to it.
Standout tracks: “Immolation of the Agnostic”, “Lost Remembrance”, “Relics”, “Engraved In Black”
Final rate: 90/100