Album Title: Væ Victis
Label: Akia Records
Date of Release: 23 April 2021
It’s no surprise to find me once again plundering the melodic death metal genre for my latest review. After all, you all know very well by now that I have more than a passing soft spot for this kind of music. When done well, there are few other styles of heavy music that scratch that itch that I find nestled at the back of my brain.
The subject of this review however, does not call Scandinavia home. Instead, Akiavel hail from France, and have been in existence since 2018. In 2020, the quartet released their debut album, ‘V’ and just one year later, they return with their second full-length, independently-released record, ‘Væ Victis’. Unfortunately, I can only conclude that, on this occasion, the speed of creation has not been matched by the quality on offer. Allow me to explain.
To begin with, there’s the unavoidable Arch Enemy comparisons. I loved ‘Stigmata’ and ‘Burning Bridges’ back in the day but I lost interest when Angela Gossow joined and have never regained my enthusiasm. I couldn’t care less whether the vocalist was male, female, or an alien from the planet Squelch, I just never really connected with the music. Give me one song from the modern era of Arch Enemy that’s as good as ‘Bridge Of Destiny’ or ‘Beast Of Man’, and I’ll reconsider my position…maybe. The problem for Akiavel is that they sound very heavily influenced by the modern, disappointing Arch Enemy.
As such, what you get are lots of chugging, heavy riffs with plenty of muscularity, and gruff female vocals, but not enough of the other important stuff. And by that I mean that there’s an absence of blistering lead guitar solos, a paucity of variation, and not enough melody. Actually, I’ll re-phrase that: there’s plenty of melody, but not enough by way of memorable, Earth-stopping hooks, the ones that will make the hairs on your arms stand on end. In my book, this counts as a missed opportunity.
On the plus side, it took me a long time to accept that the vocals were being delivered by Auré, because she has some serious pipes on her. I particularly like the depth of the growls when she delivers those low notes because the bass in her voice is impressive. There’s no faulting her passion either, although the same could be said for all four members because they clearly believe in what they are doing. And that’s to Akiavel’s collective credit.
There are also a couple of really decent tracks to be heard on ‘ ‘Væ Victis’, starting with the savage bludgeon of ‘Comrade’, complete with some cool sounding pinched harmonics and battering drumming. That is, until the sound of singing children emerges in the latter stages; that’s a little too toe-curling for my liking when done in this ultra-sweet manner. I also rather enjoy ‘Needles From Hell’ because there’s less emphasis on Arch Enemy, and more of a Kataklysm vibe if my ears don’t deceive me. The riffs are pretty good throughout this particular track and at this point, I’m willing Akiavel to pull a rabbit out of the hat and completely change my mind. Alas, it doesn’t happen.
The opener, ‘Frozen Beauties’ does get under the skin just a little with repeated spins, thanks to some of the more engaging melodies on offer. I can’t help but enjoy ‘The Lady Of Death’, the one song on the album to dabble with clean vocals from Auré, which starts me wondering as to why this technique wasn’t used more liberally. If it had, perhaps it might have provided something in the way of much-needed variety.
I never like to write reviews that are more negative than positive, preferring others to cause death by a thousand cuts. However, as part of my drive towards broadening my horizons ever further and reviewing as much music as I possibly can, there will inevitably be the occasional album or two that ends up a little wide of the mark. Akiavel are one of these bands regrettably, despite wanting to give them as much time and effort as I possibly could when penning this review. If you enjoy the kind of melodeath that’s being delivered by modern Arch Enemy, then there’s no reason why you might enjoy ‘Væ Victis’. But, on balance, it’s not something that I can recommend more widely. Maybe next time.
The Score Of Much Metal: 65%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: