Emergent presents a band fully comfortable in their own skin, regardless of how peculiar it might appear at first sight.

Release date: November 10, 2023 | Season of Mist | Bandcamp | Facebook

My relationship with industrial-tinged metal is difficult at best. Or well, not maybe difficult as such, but rather polarized. Either it clicks exceedingly hard or not at all, with nothing in between, and I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of people, conceptually at least. With Autarkh and their debut Form In Motion, which I reviewed over here, I dove into it with a different type of enthusiasm and expectancy, mainly due to the fact that Autarkh is helmed by the same creative force as one of my all time favourites, Dodecahedron. Though either has nothing to do with the other at first sight, I had some bias going into it, and while musically it’s obviously something else, really liked Formed In Motion. It however left a feeling of incompleteness behind it, and it hasn’t really stayed in rotation since its release, aspects which proved to be true only way after its release. Remembering how the debut still made an impact, I reserved Emergent for myself and unlike last time, proceeded with caution.

The first thing that caught my attention is that Autarkh feels immediately like a new and refined beast on all fronts, and even though Emergent is extremely far away from easy listening, there’s a sense of consistency and coherence unique to it. The colour palette they paint their sonic canvas with is still unfathomably vibrant, and while it takes some time to get adjusted to, everything sounds simply more contained this time around, yet without compromising the musicianship and production. On the debut, the more cacophonous side felt like a potential pitfall, but on Emergent, its embraced and embedded into the bigger image in a more thorough and fluent manner.

Filled to the brim with blink and you miss it type of moments, Emergent is first and foremost an entirety that needs to be devoured whole. The opener track “Open Focus” wastes no time in exploding to dimensions beyond most accustomed perimeters, instantly showcasing the most colossal side to Autarkh‘s existence. The compositional prowess meets with textural richness that turns out to stick far better this time, and while it may be an odd choice to lead with the more aerial edge, it does what it’s supposed to in gathering not only mass but also develops a thirst for the listener to really dig in and find out what awaits after it. Oftentimes choosing the opener to album of this caliber – or any caliber, really – can be an extremely challenging task, but this time it hits the nail on the head.

I don’t want to compare Emergent and Form In Motion too much and make this blabbering all about the juxtaposition of the two, but it does bear significant weight to point out how Autarkh has evolved in such a short period of time, especially since it’s very tangible when listening to them. One such aspect I noticed early on with Emergent, echoing what I said above about it being more contained, is that each song more or less takes their own route and have their own signature, instead of being too crammed or featuring every single nuance within the confines of one song alone. For an example, “Strife” takes a more steadfast and jarring approach with its slow grooves, “Trek” is a full on barrage of vicious blast beats and some tasty laid back moments, “Eye of Horus” is a surprisingly brisk and upbeat endeavour to prog fields, and “Countless Kaleidoscopes” embarks on an ever-evolving low note pummeling uniting rhythmic trickery with atmospheric leads in otherworldly tones.

Otherworldly is actually a properly fitting descriptor to the entire album, a stance mostly gained through the spaced out lead melodies colliding with grounded and organic instrumentation alongside the cold and rugged machine percussions. Layers upon layers, you could say. Autarkh can be extremely palpable and sci-fi-esque simultaneously, and that’s a facet that they know very well how to put to proper use. For concrete examples, I could say that Emergent is the outcome of Dodecahedron‘s ponderous ambiances, Meshuggah‘s tonality and groovier sides, and Godflesh‘s industrial tint all thrown together in a blender. I don’t mean to compare anything to anything else as I personally hate the idea of ‘hey this sounds like that‘ because we shouldn’t approach everything with face value but look closer and comprehend it for what it is as an individual, but I wanted to add the above simply to earth my accounts. If you enjoy one or more of the mentioned acts and for some reason haven’t heard Autarkh yet (while still reading this review, bit weird innit?), chances are you’ll find them – or at least some of their tonal tendencies – rather pleasant.

One slightly surprising addition to Autarkh‘s existence is their interest in reimagining artistic ideas, which without a doubt adds to their overall appearance. Form In Motion was mostly built on material intended for Dodecahedron‘s third album that never happened, and on Emergent‘s closer “Ka” you can hear a reinterpretation of Dodecahdedron‘s “An Ill-Defined Air of Otherness” by it not only sharing a similar structure but also the source material, and listening to the main riff and beat side by side will unveil that. To further expand this mind map, Autarkh (of course) also exists in a band-within-a-band form through their reincarnation Autarkh III, in which they take the interpretative aspect even further by recycling their own ideas and motifs in a completely different context. This circular motion is something that adds a lot of nuance to Autarkh‘s ever-expanding scale, and there’s plenty of discoveries that await those who care to look into it.

As the pretext implies, Autarkh has rediscovered itself both literally and figuratively, and Emergent is a testament to that. The album is a monolith in its own right, but way more digestable (while not technically any easier) than the debut, and I can imagine it lands properly on a wider audience and their appreciation, too. The harsh angles are harsher and soft mellow bits are even softer while the distance between the two ends is stretched to its breaking point, yet celebrating coherency and reveling in artistic integrity. In their particular realm of experimental music, Autarkh have truly crafted something of grave significance.

Band promo by Joris Robben

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