Is The Obedience to Authority simply an example of an execution that fails an otherwise great concept? With a style this extreme and unrelenting, it’s hard to tell where the artistic license begins and ends. If anything rings true regardless, it’s that Autokrator sounds amazing at least in concept. Taking the murky ‘Lovecraft in a cave’ tab from Portal—itself a style too extreme for all but the hardiest of ears—then warping it further with oppressive industrial clatter and dystopian martial themes? Good fuck, where could something like that go wrong? As a general rule, I have total respect for artists who take a sound and push it further. With Autokrator, who meant to reinvent a sound that’s already considered fairly cutting-edge as is, that respect may have doubled—that is, if they had translated the concept into a coherent sound, with at least a handful of ideas to distinguish between themselves. No dice this time.
Autokrator’s thick industrial timbre places them in as close a league with Godflesh as they are with Portal, but I can’t stop being reminded of my experience with the latter as I’ve digested The Obedience to Authority. The chaotic extremities of Portal were a personal system shock the first time I heard them. It wasn’t until the dust settled and novelty wore off that I began to feel like the band’s hyperdensity made it all blend together like some amorphous noise blob. One time, I overheard a middle-aged Baby Boomer lady say that, ‘if there’s nothing in the music you can’t tap your foot to, it probably isn’t very nice to listen to.’ In the slight likelihood that the conversation I overheard was actually about said lady debating whether or not she should pre-order Vexovoid on vinyl, then I might agree, at least to an extent. An artist should never feel the need to vary up their sound if they don’t want to, but a few coherent, distinct ideas go a long way towards fuelling the chaos that surrounds them.
I didn’t mean to prattle about Portal in an Autokrator review, but it felt necessary to put this experience in context. The Obedience to Authority reopened old wounds. While I was eventually able to simply appreciate Portal for the mindwarp that it is, I think Autokrator takes the challenge up a notch. There are definitely riffs on this album, and markings of conscious structure throughout. While a less outlandish band would have had a functional mid-paced death metal album on their hands with this songwriting, Autokrator takes the opportunity to eviscerate the sound with heinously overpowered industrial noise and clatter. At some point in Autokrator’s struggle for the highest extremity, the drum machine must have gained sentience and dreamt itself the new Führer. Maybe besides for a few well-done ambient breaks, you cannot get away from the oppressive martial thudding of the drums. That combined with the rumbling gutturals (a really strong performance from David Bailey, actually) and it takes strain at any given time to know what the guitars or the songwriting are up to.
There’s no doubt that The Obedience to Authority leaves a strong impression, especially at first. There’s no denying the oppressive atmosphere Autokrator succeed in creating here. But with a few design choices overpowering virtually everything else they have to offer, the shock value is quick to wear off. At the same time, however, the music was obviously written with this production style in mind. The riffs are surprisingly basic and bland for a project of this ambition, and were probably meant as added texture fodder more than anything else. All of that is fine in concept, and even as power-hungry as the industrial drums are, there’s no fatal flaw that means the formula will never work. There are a hundred ways Autokrator could have made a great album from these ideas. The problem is that there were still a million other ways they could fail.
01) Chapter I
02) Chapter II
03) Chapter III
04) Chapter IV
05) Chapter V
06) Chapter VI
07) Chapter VII
08) Chapter VIII
Written by: Conor Fynes
Krucyator Productions (France) / KP001 / CD, Digital
Godz ov War Productions (Poland) / Unknown / CD
Larval Productions (United States) / LAR-005 / 12″ LP
Death Metal / Drone Doom / Post-Industrial