“We battle for the living community, in order to rescue the soul and the personality. In us lives the spirit of all the great people who, wherever they were, were against the rule of the masses.”
- Ernst Julius Jung, Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen, 1930
Release: Au crépuscule de l’espérance (album)
Record company: Hospital Productions
Genre: Hooligan Black Metal
Original Dutch text and English translation by Degtyarov
(Klik hier voor de Nederlandse versie)
A ray of light through an ashen sky
The reason that I have never labelled myself as a metalhead is that both the musical genre and the ‘scene’ that surrounds it are riddled with so many clichés, kitsch and bad taste, that identification with these uncultivated hordes is out of the question for any sane human-being. While ‘members’ of this sub culture like to uphold the pretence of leading an alternative lifestyle, sheepish behaviour and ignorance prevail no less in these circles than they would at the meeting of a random boyband fanclub (as I already proved once through biological analysis in this article). The subgenre of black metal, too, has among its ranks a fair share of – excusez le mot – posers and wannabees, whose entire originality consists of the design of their childish corpsepaint. However, in exceptional cases, certain bands rise to the occasion and prove that black metal can be the musical and aesthetic revolt that it is so often proclaimed to be.
Akitsa is one of these exceptional cases. With their latest album, Au crépuscule de l’espérance, the two-man band from Québec continues swimming against the current, not conceding to any of the worrying trends in black metal, that today include safe, family-friendly mediocrity, as well as half-baked, quasi-academic hipster tripe. Akitsa produces raw, filthy black metal with RAC/Oi influences, a melange that will not be easy to swallow for even the most seasoned black metal purists. While the sound quality of Akitsa‘s albums is comparable to that of Transilvanian Hunger, the band is by no means the umpteenth Darkthrone clone. Quite the opposite: the style of the québécois band can by all means be considered unique. Clean vocals and Oi-inspired riffs provide the ultra-primitive black metal with an extra dimension, which, in combination with the gritty production, occasionally evokes the sensation that we are listening to a RAC release.
“Only aficionados of mud-dragged black metal will be able to handle this music.”
With Au crépuscule de l’espérance, which was released in 2010, Akitsa provides a continuation of the style that it developed across the preceding 11 years of the band’s existence, though enriching it with subtle industrial influences. As early as on “Les sentinelles”, the first track after the intro, a morbid-sounding organ emphasises the eerie, funereal sombreness that the band often invokes. In combination with vocals à la Burzum, the composition feels perhaps a tad more like traditional black metal than the music the band is so infamous for. The somewhat conventional deathlike theme also finds its way into a couple of subsequent tracks, such as “Cercueil national” and “Vers la mort”, as is implied by their titles (“National coffin” and “Towards death” respectively). Still, the (deliberately) sloppy musicianship and production ensure that the band remains at a safe distance from a mainstream sound, meaning that only aficionados of mud-dragged black metal will be able to handle this music. Fortunately, Akitsa‘s “Oi face” also pops up more than once, for example in the song “Loyauté”, a slow, brooding Oi track that is sung with completely clean vocals, and sounds like it came straight from the repertoire of a RAC band such as Klan. Additionally, the track “Le dernier putsch” is built around a hard-as-nails punk riff that reflects the militant nature of the lyrics.
Indeed, if you wish to fully comprehend the primitive, inaccessible nature of Akitsa‘s sound, an understanding of the band’s lyrics is obligatory. Even though their patriotic, exclusively French lyrics have always struck a chord with me, Au crépuscule de l’espérance sees the band reach new heights lyrically, meaning that Akitsa becomes ever more difficult to ignore as one of the most poetically gifted bands within the black metal genre. As a reviewer with an analytical approach, quality lyrics are an essential factor for me (see here and here), and I am all too aware of the pitfalls of the conceptual and lyrical structures of black metal. The theme of the lyrics is not even the key issue: for instance, it is an undeniable truth that Satanism is omnipresent in the genre, but it is the way in which such a theme is handled rather than the theme itself that exposes the intellect and creativity of an artist. To illustrate, it would be extremely difficult to find a link between the way in which Satanism plays a part in the oeuvre of Peste Noire  and the pretentious, image-centric wailing perpetrated by individuals such as Gaahl .
A similar juxtaposition can be identified in another prominent (though not omnipresent) theme in black metal: nationalism. Now, this is a thoroughly broad and complex term, so as to facilitate the argument at hand, I will categorise under it all ideas, political and poetic, that are grounded in the propagation of a national ideal, or spirit if you will. Using this method, not only a vast variety of related ideas rises to the surface, but also an extensive qualitative spectrum. There are, for example, countless NSBM bands deprived of any talent, that formulate their nationalism in the most clumsy, ignorant ways imaginable, thus guaranteeing (before their Hitler fetishism is even taken into consideration) a crowd composition that consists exclusively of jabbering beer nazis. As such, proper reflection of the lyrics by said bands is rendered impossible because the ones who receive the message only tend to care about their violent and extreme nature. Ironically, this phenomenon corresponds with a mentality commonly found among listeners of gangsta rap.
The sole fact that the members of Akitsa include a strong nationalism in their lyrics in itself does not even hint towards a high degree of originality. It is instead the way in which this subject is brought to the table that proves Akitsa‘s poetic qualities. While their lyrics do still include familiar elements, such as the glorification of the past and the aesthetisation of war, the texts penned down by band member Néant in particular betray the work of a sharp, trained mind that expresses itself in both the lyrical content and the technical writing qualities. In “Les sentinelles”, we hear: “Dans tous les recoins, partour ces mêmes bêtises imposées / Le bétail se fait idéologue et se croyant sentinelle / S’évertue à faire régner un myopie généralisée / Au royaume de l’étroitesse, de la sottise éternelle” . This misanthropic observation seems to set the tone for a fatalistic, destructive message of the kind that is often observed in black metal. But immediately afterwards, the vocalist exclaims “Je chanterai la fierté, l’honneur, le sol et le sang / Sans honte, sans remords aucun, je ne serai repentant / De m’être exilé du territoire des bien-pensants” . So instead of merely focusing on the ignorant, titular “sentinels”, the lyricist points out that, in a place far removed from this “livestock” (bétail), there exist such virtues as pride and honour, with which he still supplies his cynical poem with a vague but very real aura of hope.
Such feelings of hope are formulated even more clearly in the afore-mentioned “Loyauté”, to which Néant also wrote the lyrics. In contrast with the more politically flavoured “Les sentinelles”, “Loyauté”‘s lyrics express a more general call to fighting for one’s country, and as a result is almost ennobling in nature: “Prends garde! La peur amène le déshonneur” ; “Alors entonne l’hymne de la victoire / Retrouve les tiens, à leur santé va boire / Car ton courage et ta loyauté les honorent / Peu importe les mirages de la gloire et les reflets d’or” . Combine this with the fact that the song, as mentioned earlier, is played in a slow, uplifting RAC style, and it becomes clear that in a lyrical as well as a musical sense, Akitsa is more versatile than the minimalist nature of their style would imply.
“The album’s title does not seem wholly coincidental.”
In spite of the positivist  aspect that some of the lyrics exhale, the misanthropy that has always been a part of Akitsa does still leave its mark on their latest album. Where Néant’s lyrics seem to emphasise the creation of a new world, the texts produced by O.T., the other half of Akitsa, focus rather on the destruction of the old one. This becomes clear in a song such as “Cercueil national”: “Direction: Le cercueil national / Pour ton peuple, c’est la peine capitale / Tes rêves de liberté / Sont à jamais enterrés” . And contrary to for example “Les sentinelles”, the attention does not switch to an alternative dimension to the freedom-loving fellow humans that Akitsa so despises. This dichotomy of elevation and defamation is exactly what distinguishes Akitsa from both the Oi and black metal bands that so clearly inspired their sound. Consequently, the album’s title, which translates into “At the twilight of hope“, does not seem wholly coincidental.
The album’s ‘plot’ thickens even more when Famine of Peste Noire makes his contribution in the form of lyrics for “Le dernier putsch”. These lyrics seem to have been written especially for Akitsa, as the violent and anti-governmental posture of Famine is more explicit than in the generally more subtle, poetic lyrics of Peste Noire (exceptions given). Still, the mentality that forms the centre of Peste Noire‘s infamy also makes its appearance here: an anti-Republican, mediaeval attitude in a modern world, characterised by violent rhetoric with more than a few whiffs of irony. It is the paradoxal combination of hooliganism and elitism, in particular, that perfectly captures the spirit of ‘Hooligan Black Metal’: “J’ai le sang hooligan / Et l’esprit élitiste / Avec un canif ou une canne / Je te rayerai de la liste” . Curiously enough, this apparent contradiction of half hooligan, half aristocrat corresponds with the rhetoric of the Falange Española, who proclaimed that man should ideally be ‘half soldier, half monk’ ; one half violent, relentless warrior, the other reserved representative of a higher class; one half brute force, the other unchosen leader of plebeians.
Such a juxtaposition can also be brought back to Akitsa as a whole. Their music is hopeful and nihilistic at the same time, while lyrically, both intelligent observations and a blunt appetite for destruction are thrown into the mix. It is true that one would not immediately expect a high degree of poetic maturity in a band with such a primitive sound, but a closer analysis reveals this co-existence as being nothing more than logical. Because if there is one element that binds the lyrics of Akitsa, it is their outspoken elitism: the superiority over the “livestock” mentioned in “Les sentinelles”; over the traitors who are being fought in “Loyauté”; over the plutocrats who are being beaten down in “Le dernier putsch”, and over the ignorant, bastardised rabble that is being purged in “Antithèse”. Correspondent to this elitist attitude, Akitsa offers a sound that would not be tolerable to any of the people who fall into any of the afore-mentioned categories; a dirty, visceral, unpolished sound that directly contradicts the utopian perception that music is supposed to be beautiful, clear and easy to digest. When, after the elections of 1936, the Falange had to deal with a tidal wave of new members – many of whom were barely aware of the party’s ideology – it was exactly the radical aspect of their ideology that perished . As such, black metal bands such as Akitsa must utilise their rancid music to scare trend-hoppers away from the genre, thus preventing its radical sound and posture from being compromised and watered down by ignorance.
With Au crépuscule de l’espérance, Akitsa adds to its discography a work that elevates the band both musically and lyrically, all the while conceding nothing of the extremist nature of the band, and black metal in general. Perhaps not all ten songs leave an impression as big as do the album’s many highlights, which were so elaborately discussed in this review. Regardless, the québécois hooligans deliver a dangerous piece of music that is definitely a step into the right direction for black metal, distancing itself from the theatrical clowns who, under the pretext of delivering their message to a ‘bigger audience’, bastardise the genre and sell it to the masses. And for this, the band deserves an excessive amount of praise. Unfortunately, every Akitsa is counterbalanced by 10 Liturgys, ready to throw rocks at the black windows of their own glass houses to let in the light. There where it should not be.
O.T. – all instruments; vocals
Néant – all instruments; vocals
1. Crématorium (2:41)
2. Les sentinelles (5:01)
3. Morsure (3:26)
4. Loyauté (5:34)
5. Cercueil national (4:46)
6. Au crépuscule de l’espérance (7:30)
7. Le dernier putsch (6:55)
8. Antithèse (2:09)
9. Vers la mort (5:35)
10. La voix brutale (5:33)
Total running time: 49:20
 Read the relevant questions in this interview with Famine from 2006…
 …and compare them too this interview with Gaahl (ex-Gorgoroth).
 “From every corner / all this nonsense is imposed / Livestock becomes ideological and believe themselves to be guardsmen / They strive to let widespread near-sightedness reign /
In the realm of narrowness, of eternal stupidity“.
 “I will sing of pride, honour, sun and blood / Without shame or a spark of remorse; I shall not repent / When I expel myself from the territory of the self-righteous“.
 “Beware! Fear produces dishonour“.
 “Now the hymn of victory sounds / Find back those close to you and drink to their health / For your courage and your loyalty honour them / Regardless of the illusions of glory and the reflections of gold“.
 Positivist in the sense that the lyrics in question focus on the praising (‘pro’) instead of the mere defaming (‘anti’) of things.
 “Direction: The national coffin / It is capital punishment for your kind / Your dreams of liberty / Will be forever buried“.
 “I have the blood of a hooligan / And the spirit of an elitist / With a knife or a stick / I will cross you off the list“.
 Beevor, A. The Battle For Spain. 1st ed. London: Phoenix, 2007. p. 46.
 Payne, S.G. Fascism in Spain. 1st ed. Madison: The University of Winsconsin Press, 1999. p. 194; 207.
N.B. My translations of the lyrics are not representative of the quality of the original versions.