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Sleeping Ancient Create Post-Black Metal Fascination with “Akeru”

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The humid mire of Texas’s Gulf Coast may not be a locale that immediately comes to mind at the mention of black metal’s frigid countenance, but the sweltering, furnace-like claustrophobia conjured by underground Houston outfit Sleeping Ancient amounts to an aural perspective on the genre that perfectly befits the suffocating heat of their hometown. Standing as sonic outliers in a scene more typically focused on earthy, groove-based styles such as death metal and stoner rock, this four-piece act was originally formed in 2010 as an instrumental post-rock collective paying homage to the cosmic, apocalyptic horrors of H.P. Lovecraft.

Having since refined their sound into an almost ambient interpretation of atmospheric black metal, Sleeping Ancient differ radically from their peers in the Houston crowd, although a close analysis of their material still reveals doomed-out post metal roots in the texture and pacing of their compositions.

After weathering various personnel changes and prolonged hiatuses since their formation nearly one decade ago, Sleeping Ancient’s sound has finally culminated in their first-ever full-length record There Is No Truth But Death, their second release after 2016’s The Last Seer EP. Touching on themes of bleak desolation and existential dread regarding the human condition, the album represents a somber journey through nihilism and infatuation with death, allowing black metal structures and aesthetics to unfold in a lush post metal landscape. Providing us with another exciting glimpse into their mesmerizing esoteric realm of melancholy, Sleeping Ancient have now revealed the record’s monolithic third track “Akeru,” a tormented quest into the heart of mortal suffering, streaming exclusively below.

“Akeru” is the longest track on There is No Truth But Death, a melancholic dirge of cascading instrumental dissonance overlain by capricious strains of melody and the derelict rasping yowls of vocalist Rory Ahlquist. Rather than stampeding the listener with a galloping, uptempo triple meter, the track strikes a pace that is consistently meandering yet dense, drawing its immense weight not from terrifying speed but rather from the layers of sound that begin to bury the listener in collapsing static and almost liturgical reverberation.

In “Akeru’s” latter passages, its auditory onslaught is accelerated to white-knuckled levels of intensity as a whirlwind of double bass and seething percussion accompanies a swelling, chaotic hymn of tremolo guitars and especially pained screams, a tempest that finally subsides into a quiet soundscape of obscure tones.

The track’s final moments are fully ambient, pockmarked by distant voices and shimmering metallic tones reverberating with increasing anxiety. In Sleeping Ancient’s own words, “Akeru is a Japanese word which means to piece, to end, and/or to open, a symbolic message of piercing and opening oneself in order to see the truth of what is inside.”

The meaning of this composition can be related directly both musically and lyrically to the central message of the album as a whole, as it details the process of diving straight into the crux of the humanistic dilemma. As Sleeping Ancient’s material melds black metal, post-metal, and doom into one unified timbre, so does this track blend the triple definition of “to pierce, to open, and to end” as these actions respectively define these three styles of metal. Alternating between moments of enraged disillusionment and lighter, more contemplative passages of twilit beauty, “Akeru” contains some of There Is No Truth But Death’s heaviest material and its lightest, ultimately showcasing the full range of Sleeping Ancient’s potent musical capabilities.

There is No Truth But Death releases September 6th via Viridian Flame.

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