It was searching for more blackened hardcore like Kvelertak that led me to Okkultokrati. Some kvlt nong on last.fm was shouting about how Kvelertak were childish amateurs compared to the might of Okkultokrati. Sounds promising, thought I.
Unfortunately, this expectation for debut No Light for Mass to sound like Kvelertak +1 hobbled my appreciation for some time. The two bands may mix punk and black metal but the results couldn’t be more different.
Much as I have finally fallen for this record, it’s by no means “fun”. Rather than mead, wenches and Norse mythology, Okkultokrati have crafted a record of “necro spirituals” exploring the dark side of atheist metaphysics. Not that I care particularly – they could wail and growl about cute kittens or the finer points of auto-repair as long as the music is good. Which it is.
Part of a loose Norwegian collective Black Hole Crew, along with Haust, Arabrot and others, Okkultokrati have been lumped into the so-called nekromantik scene. I don’t even know what that means. In this Quietus interview, Haust’s Vebjørn Guttormsgaard Møllberg describes it as “like the necrophiliacs going through the tracks of these black metal people” with influences from UK/US hardcore punk.
Okkultokrati appear to confirm this with opener On Mouth of Hells. No messing around, just pedal-to-the-metal and going for the throat from the outset with some great little stop-starts that hint at Okkultokrati’s ability to groove as well as crush.
This is further emphasised with a fantastic breakdown to double-time twanging bass before the obligatory Motörhead-evoking chug, slide and scream. After doing its business, our introduction to Okkultokrati packs up and goes home after 1:37. So far so blackened crusty thrash, you might think.
Yet it’s when these Norwegians slow down that things get really interesting.
The blackened doomy, atmospherics of Ragnarokian remind me of nothing else but Big Long Now by Nirvana. Really. It’s fairly subtle in that Kurt Cobain rarely name-checked Mayhem or Venom in interviews yet Ragnarokian‘s cavernous, ringing main riff is bizarrely similar to that of this lesser-known Incesticide album track.
Maybe it’s just me.
Anyway… while Okkultokrati certainly mine that rich seam where black metal meets crust punk, there’s a strong doomy, or perhaps sludgy, element that elevates them from mere Darkthrone clones.
The riffs frequently slow to a weighty chug that frequently give the album a real heft as opposed to cheap and nasty thrills. Add to this a dose of unflashy atmospheric details and occasional echoey effects and the result is quite intriguing and oddly catchy.
In fact it’s not for another three tracks that the pace cranks up again for a couple of moshers. Yet even then Okkultokrati aren’t afraid to hit the brakes for some masterful moody doom-laden grinding.
No Light for Mass has a really odd black sheep of a track three-quarters through with Tomb City Rockers – Pungent State. While undoubtedly crushingly heavy overall, it has some really incongruous radio-friendly riffs and bass parts that drift in and out of the early part of the arrangement, only to go AWOL for the rest of the song.
Normal service is resumed with yet another d-beating thrasher Stench of Life that metamorphoses into a something distinctly more sludgy. Album closer Promise Me The World (So I Can Destroy It) is another sterling example of this young band’s oddly beguiling sound – dark, doom-laden and almost ritualistic yet somehow catchy.