Toward Akina, the second album from Italian band Seventh Genocide, is a pretty distinctive beast. Though the marketing and press releases tag this album as post-black metal, the emphasis is very much on the “post” part of that equation. There are far more sections on Toward Akina that recall Pink Floyd’s psychedelic sounds, or even the raw emotional passion of late-90’s/early-00’s screamo than there are moments of classic black metal coldness. It may not appeal to those who judge a record by it’s kvlt appeal, but if genre is less of a concern than the music simply being good, then Toward Akina has a lot to offer.
The early moments are some of the most furious on the album, with opener ‘Astral Bliss’ kicking off with the kind of intensity, soaring chords, and shrieked vocals that recall the likes of Funeral Diner more than they do black metal. Likewise, the strong bass lines that often carry the melody (a feature that pops up throughout the album) are excellent, but more at home than an Ebullition Records release than anything else. None of this is bad though, because what Seventh Genocide do, they do well – and these opening moments, full of passion and violence, and genuinely stirring.
It’s not long before the other main aspect of their sound becomes clear though, with hazy, psychedelic, prog sounds pulled straight from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here come to the fore. The loneliness and sorrow that characterised that album is a perfect fit with Toward Akina and post-black metal as a whole, and as Seventh Genocide conjure up these atmospherically dreamy soundscapes, it’s hard not to be pulled in to them, taken on some journey in to the uncaring void of space.
Not that Toward Akina is entirely absent of moments of sheer black metal cold, though. The progressive, almost jazzy introduction of second track ‘Life is Poison’ gives way to the kind of atmospheric, forest-dwelling black metal that Ulver helped define so long ago. Meanwhile, ‘Immense as the Universe’ features a definite DSBM edge, with its black metal moments being melodic and sorrowful, which helps distinguish them from the more gentle, almost hopeful build-ups and sparse sections surrounding them. The contrast makes the different elements seem all the stronger, and though I feel that Toward Akina might be stronger if it had more moments such as this, that’s not to say it’s a bad album by any stretch. Rather, it’s the kind of album that is more characterised by its soft, atmospheric, almost gentle movements, which make up the majority of the record. It’s very much a record to sink in to and find emotional solace and quiet catharsis, rather than spend an hour head-banging and throwing horns.
It’s interesting to hear a band who have taken the ideas of post-black metal to such an extent that they are almost beyond black metal completely; especially when the results are as engaging and hypnotic as this. Though none of the elements of Toward Akina are particularly novel, the result is an album that has a lot of personality and charisma, and feels far more honest than a lot of other post-black metal records being made. Perfectly suited for solitude and late nights, Toward Akina is a great record to get sad to.