REVIEW: AK-11 – Legendary, Demonic & Invincible

Band: AK-11
Album: Legendary, Demonic & Invincible EP (demo)
Release: 2011
Label: Self-released
Genre: Black metal

When a band’s biography announces that they play “triumphant black war metal” inspired by Russian and European history, I’m fairly certain that one of the last places I’d consider looking for such a band would be Australia. However, to surprise you all I present AK-11, a one-man project masterminded by Valak, whose début demo EP Legendary, Demonic & Invincible was released last year. It’s an intriguing little number, for a number of reasons including the above-mentioned location, combining the cold grimness of Norway’s older scene with a touch of the rawness found in oldschool Nathrakh and a remarkable amount of melody within its 6 tracks.

LDI commences with “The Cleansing Stream”, a lo-fi black metal track with a strong sense of melody and a notch or two above the usual bedroom bands. The drums, despite being programmed, are non-invasive and provide the required rhythms for the prominent guitar work, although never really branch out. There’s no bass as far as I can tell, but that’s hardly noticeable when the drums are turned up to intense speeds such as on the closing track. There’s plenty of variety, from the Burzum-like drumless-distortion in “Slava Rossii” to the high-quality solo of the title track. AK-11 also mixes in some samples, one from the Red Army Choir at the end of “Slava Rossii” and another more cinematic one to open “Sniper’s Glory (Satan Guides My Aim)”, adding to the Slavic feel of this album.

Valak’s voice itself is a fairly conventional shriek/snarl for most of the record which fits the music suitably, whether in English or in Russian, and his Russian accent is quite convincing. The vocal mic isn’t the best quality, but on a lo-fi release this should be expected, and the diminished/echoed vocals almost add atmosphere in themselves. Lyrical topics on the album deal mostly with Russian history or mythology, such as “The Cleansing Stream”, or the topic of war in general (the title track). The last track “Shest’ Shest’ Shest’ I Katyusha” remains most interesting, and in the words of Valak himself, “is based on the Russian folk song Katyusha, but here she sings to the heathen warriors who are eradicating foreign dogma from their homeland & are in battle against ‘the holy ones’.” Taking a romantic wartime character such as Katyusha and reworking it into a song about fighting Christians is certainly one of the more novel approaches, and is a step up from the usual approach to war-based lyrics.

The riffs and leads themselves demonstrate Valak’s time spent in other local Aussie/NZ acts, as they are memorable and much more mature compared to the plethora of bedroom bands, echoing the feel of Burzum or Gorgoroth. As well as being memorable, the tracks are also quite unpredictable in the way they shift through sections and tempos, and LDI still sounds fresh after many a listen. There is still room for improvement (the title track’s production drowns the guitars, slightly repetitive lyrics for “Slava Rossii”), but these are minor faults in the face of this being a début demo EP.

I consider it a credit to Valak that, had I not already known AK-11 is an Aussie project, I’d have certainly placed this as a Russian band. Given the one-man nature of this project, it’ll be intriguing to see the music develop in a live setting, which may have an effect on the subsequent material and push it even further into new directions. For now, LDI is an enjoyable entrée that is not to be missed, and anyone with a partiality to black metal in the vein of Burzum, Gorgoroth or Satanic Warmaster is encouraged to give this a download from the band’s website.

Rating: 7/10

Check out AK-11 on Facebook and Reverbnation.

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