Review by Vladimir on May 30, 2023.
If one lunatic out there ever decided to point a gun at my head and ask me to say my favorite black metal band in 5 seconds, I think that without hesitation or second thought, the answer to that question will always be Bathory. The reason why I hold the band in high regard isn’t just because of its significance or influence that it had on black metal bands, but it’s also because it’s one of those bands I never get tired of. Ever since I heard the songs (particularly 'Raise The Dead', 'Reaper' and 'Hades') from the self-titled debut album I got instantly hooked, even though I have already heard bands like Venom, Celtic Frost, Immortal, Burzum, Mayhem, Darkthrone and Satyricon. Bathory saved many lives of troubled metalheads worldwide, including me, and I will remain eternally grateful to Quorthon for his never-ending legacy. However, the topic of this review will not be anything of Bathory, but instead an album by a one-man band that was heavily influenced by them and also managed to somewhat recreate a fragment of that studio magic. The band in question is Apocalypse from Italy, led by an individual by the name of Erymanthon Seth. Although many of you may not be familiar with Erymanthon, some of you may know him from a Burzum – 'Jesu Død' cover video with Sablast of Zimorog and Simon Bobnar Škrlec as guest musicians. He also did some pretty interesting videos on his channel such as “Black Metal on Mandolin”, “Black Metal goes Classical” and even “Classical music goes Black Metal”, which I highly recommend that you check out. To avoid any further debate, Apocalypse isn’t a Bathory cover band, but a tribute band that closely resembles the band’s sound and style. Apocalypse is releasing its fifth full-length album Retaliation on June 9th via MiMo Sound Records & Publishing, which was teased a few days ago on the official YouTube channel. Personally, I wasn’t sure what to think of Apocalypse when I first got my chance to hear it, but I quickly found myself enjoying it which I think should earn itself the title of a worthy Bathory tribute. Now how does Retaliation compare to the rest of the discography, especially since it’s the next in line album after Pedemontium which came out 2 years prior? Stay tuned to find out.
This album is basically what "Requiem" is to Bathory, which even when observing closely the album’s cover art and the font of the band’s logo, was exactly the direction that was taken for this album. The riffs are extremely heavy and full of rage, thrashing along with the drums and the over-the-top aggressive shouting vocals which closely resemble Quorthon in that same era. Every song on this album is thick, even if the tempo varies from aggressively fast to mid-tempo like on 'Mass Grave'. The sixth track 'Necropsychomaniac' is definitely the most insane track out of the bunch, because the vocals keep shouting “I want to fucking kill you!” during the chorus to the point where I kept thinking that Erymanthon definitely lost his mind at that moment and decided to burn out entirely. I would be lying to you if I said that I didn’t listen to Retaliation and Bathory’s "Requiem" back-to-back for comparison purposes, because it truly resembles the style of musical aggression and the songwriting in general. Apocalypse this time decided to change its style from the previously incorporated Viking metal to a thrash and death metal influenced music. Some people might consider this a very dumb decision which was done just for the sake of Apocalypse having an album of this style, but I personally don’t find it to be an issue because it does come from a band that serves as a tribute to Bathory. Surprisingly it managed to nail every bit of that magic, I like that it gets heavier and more intimidating after each track, with songs like 'Christophilia', 'Antisocial', 'Wokextinction' and 'A Brave New World' as highlights on this album. For example, it is much heavier and faster than the third album Collapse which was pretty much genocide from start to finish, and I think that Retaliation tops it in terms of heaviness and aggression. The vocal performance in particular does have its moments when it varies between Quorthon and Mille Petrozza, especially when there’s a higher vocal range in certain songs. Production-wise, Retaliation sounds heavy and thick, but what I found quite interesting is that the bass is also pretty loud on this album, which I think fits well with the overall style.
Although Retaliation is far from something that could easily be placed higher than any of the earlier releases such as Odes, Collapse or even Pedemontium, it is a pretty good album nonetheless. The overall execution is very powerful and aggressive, which is not something that I expected to hear from Apocalypse, especially not after Pedemontium which personally set the bar high. Personally, I think that it would have been very tedious if I decided to compare this album to "Requiem" in almost every aspect sentence by sentence. When it comes to the music and production, it is somewhat of a nice recreation of "Requiem", but I think that this album on its own is a nice addition to the band’s discography.
Rating: 8.2 out of 10920