AKHLYS – MELINOË (Debemur Morti Productions)

The disorientating, debilitating nightmare resumes five years on as Akhlys returns with third full-length ‘Melinoë’, a terrifyingly lucid and lurid journey through dark dreamscapes where horror dwells and nothing is quite as it seems. A fitting soundtrack to the fucked-up world we inhabit today, these five new nocturnal spells possess that exceptional capacity to fill your mind with unease and dread yet at the same time they wrap your soul in a comforting, reassuring embrace. The horror is here and its arrival is welcome.

Paralysing dream states and intangible nightmares are at the heart of Akhlys’ music and Naas Alcameth skilfully channels a feeling of transcendence through swirling chaos and dizzying discord, conjuring curiosity and crafting foreboding apprehension via a seamless assimilation of disturbing, abstract ambience and majestic, often-keyboard-driven Black Metal. A maelstrom of malevolent riffs, omnipotent drums and ghastly vocals, the curses are complex in conception, epic in execution, ushering forth dread from the place where we are neither awake nor asleep, where the subconscious / unconscious mind is untethered and raw (sur)reality unleashed in all its discombobulating might.

While centrepiece ‘Succubare’ serves as a breath-taking instrumental interlude, the respite – if it is that – is relatively brief as the intensity delivered in spades across the 22 combined minutes of opener ‘Somniloquy’ and the relentless ‘Pnigalion’ returns with a vengeance on ‘Ephialtes’, a taunting, teasing, twisting traversal of a path unknown to physical beings, before the sweat-inducing ten-minute night terror that is ‘Incubatio’ draws one into a deeper state of suspended trepidation, awash with chilling ambience and rasping, ominous, delirious Black Metal that sweeps and billows, communicating with devilish, mocking glee.

It’s very difficult to describe ‘Melinoë’ without descending into hyperbole. The album is essentially a vast nightmarish labyrinth of lush and ambient Black Metal, palatable but also crushing, unsurprisingly in a similar vein to half-brothers Nightbringer, Bestia Arcana and Aoratos, powerful, evocative and mightily imposing on every level. There’s so much going on that it’s impossible to take everything in, so it’s an experience that lends itself to many repeat listens, each promising a new discovery, planted by the contorted mind of a unique artist. Am I dead or am I dreaming? What does it matter when either is an improvement on living?

Evilometer: 666/666