Akercocke – Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone

Forgotten Legends is an ongoing series where we look back on those extraordinary yet often overlooked albums that are essential to any serious metal collection. They can be of any format, released at any time. As always, a dynamic range measurement is provided for reference.

Back in November of last year, AMG staffer Jean-Luc Ricard wrote such a glowing review for the album London by UK based Voices, that I made it a mission to seek this record out in the new year. And I’m so glad I did since it is everything that Jean-Luc said and more. Yet there was one thing about his stellar review that really bothered me after I initially read it – it’s beginning, which reads as follows:

“If you’re anything like me, you’re super awesome. But more to the point, you would have been saddened by the split of blackened death metal troublemakers Akercocke a couple of years ago. Perhaps the UK’s most consistently entertaining extreme metal act of the last decade, they seemed to improve on every album, reaching a pinnacle on 2007’s Antichrist.”

Many questions immediately ran through my mind after reading the above few statements: Am I indeed super awesome? (Dave, don’t answer that.) Who the heck is Akercocke? Why haven’t I heard of them or their Antichrist release before? Well after a bit of research, it turns out that I owe Jean-Luc not just one beer for helping me discover Voices, but two, since now you can consider me an Akercocke freak as well.

As his review briefly touched upon, Voices is essentially the spiritual successor to Akercocke, a project founded in 1997 by drummer David Gray and vocalist Jason Mendonça. Though self-released, the band’s first record, 1999’s Rape of the Bastard Nazarene, gained enough market penetration to attract Peaceville Records, who signed them to a one album deal soon after. Their follow up and Peaceville debut, The Goat of Mendes, was also generally well received and continued to expand upon their novel blackened death meets progressive metal formula. The band eventually wound up on Earache for a three album contract, which they completed in 2007 with the release of Antichrist. Antichrist proved to not only be their last record as a band, but one that caused quite a lot of controversy as well. It seems a US based pressing plant refused to even manufacture the CD due to its Satanic lyrics and general disdain for religion (I guess these guys probably aren’t Behemoth fans either. Shame. -Dave). In any event, the band officially broke up in 2012 and Gray and new Antichrist bassist Peter Benjamin went on to found Voices. The rest is as they say, history.

Now though I still owe Jean-Luc two whole Zimas, I’m still going to split hairs with him and claim that Akercocke’s true pinnacle came in the form of 2005’s Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone, not 2007’s Antichrist. Honestly, and I’m sure Jean-Luc would agree, you can’t go wrong with either, but Words was really what put these Brits on the proverbial map and the record that all ‘cocke noobs should start out with (I’m not going there. -Dave).

What makes this record special is that up until this point, all of Akercocke’s progressive inklings, mainly in the form of some sprinkled in unorthodox instrumentation and clean vocal accompaniment, came off as more novelty than anything else. But with Words, their progressive and goth influences are fully integrated into the whole, with the riffs themselves no longer just designed to incinerate you on contact but actually supplement their less abrasive counterparts. Now, the goth rock and progressive melodies intertwine and enhance the Behemoth-esque sounding shit storms that comprise the bulk of their core sound.

If you are only going to sample one song off this record before deciding to go all in, then listen to the opener “Verdelet,” which runs through the full gamut of Akercocke’s sonic arsenal in a little under five minutes flat. Though the opening chug is an absolute head-snapper, please note how the clean vocal melodies come and go without ever downgrading the general ferocity of the track itself. That, in a nutshell, is what makes these Brits so special.

Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone also has the honor of being the first professionally sounding record in Akercocke’s career. The mix comes courtesy of Hall & Oates engineer Neil Karnon, while the master was engineered by Alan Douches of West West Side Music. Overall, despite the DR6 score you see below, this is one of Alan’s better sounding Loudness War style masters. What is particularly noteworthy is how great Gray’s banging sounds even at these compression levels. I won’t say they couldn’t sound even more booming, but man, you can tell this gentlemen is an absolute beast back there, and the record’s overall production really helps articulate that fact. Same hold trues for Theobalds’s bass guitar as well, which is very clean in the mix and available for your listening pleasure throughout. My only real complaint is this record never made its way onto wax. Hopefully, Earache exploits this fact and releases a FDR version in the near future.

Do yourself a favor: If like me, you never heard of Akercocke before but love the new Voices album, seek this record out now. It is an absolute modern day classic and one that should be a part of any extreme metal collection that worships acts like Behemoth, Ulcerate, and even Enslaved. It’s streaming on Earache’s Bandcamp page now and already a permanent part of our collection as well. Buy it. Seriously.

Dynamic Range