Autokrator – Hammer Of The Heretics

Rating: 2/5
Distributor/label: Krucyator Productions
Released: 2018
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Loïc.F – Guitar & Bass
David Bailey – Vocals
Kévin Paradis – Drums


1. Against Flesh & Blood
2. Le Sang Impur
3. Interlude
4. Hammer Of The Heretics
5. Inquisitio-Denunciatio-Exceptio


Upon a recent discussion with a fellow musician, the topic of production came up with regards to songwriting. The debate that followed primarily centred on the one thing – it’s a stylistic choice that ensconces everything. The production is every bit a part of the songwriting process as that killer riff, that face-melting solo or that chorus – it’s the mark of the band or artist’s sound. A perfectly reasonable argument, and one with plenty of evidence behind it – most metalheads would easily be able to pick SLAYER or IRON MAIDEN or TYPE O NEGATIVE out of a record line-up.

But what of the other side of the argument? That production is another aspect entirely separate from songwriting? It’s something to ponder when presented with a record like “Hammer Of The Heretics”, courtesy of AUTOKRATOR. Throughout the album’s run, there’s an intriguing if indistinguishable fuzz about it that is to the detriment of the songs on offer. Guitars sound blurry amid a din of unfiltered noise and lose most of their impact and immediacy when winding through tremolo blasts and chunky rhythms. The bass sits below this, offering a rumbling anchor to proceedings that seemingly gives a touch of definition to the guitars, whilst the drums and vocals are about the only things that can be heard with much clarity.

When opener “Against Flesh & Blood” screams into existence, the warm fuzziness is actually quite an interesting listen. Imagine a death/doom band recording their opus of torture in a particularly spacious mountain cave, and you’re approaching the realms of “Hammer Of The Heretics”. It’s just that, after a while, everything becomes a homogeneous mass of howling noise, punctuated by twitchy drums and echoey vocals. The listening experience becomes somewhat tainted as it’s unclear what is being listened to at times.

Arguably, the album’s title track is where the band shines – the Colossus-esque riffs and sheer weight of the frenzied/lumbering attack combo is quite joyous to hear. There’s variety to add sizeable impact where needed, and a looming sense of oppression that adds richness and colour. But it requires a suspension of the production to see through, else it’s a wall of writhing noise, and that’s a damn shame.

Whilst the fuzzy production hampers the songs on offer here, it does pay dividends to the sampled cuts in the finale of “Le Sang Impur” and “Interlude”. Wailing screams and sounds of torture in the former, and an unnerving passage of dialogue in French weaving through the latter, it makes for an absolutely horrific listen. Something about hearing but not seeing what’s going on is all the more unsettling and only made worse by the oppressive atmosphere the cave-like production carries.

If AUTOKRATOR set out to create an album that sounds every bit like looming death, then break out your cloak and scythe as “Hammer Of The Heretics” achieves the aim. All torture sounds and darkness, it’s an uncomfortable listen at times that requires repeated listens to fully delve into. Musically, it’s as punishing as one could hope for from a band that can death and doom. While the spacious production gives it a larger feel and thunderous quality, it ultimately hinders the music and creates a softening, and most unwanted, static. It’s unfortunate and adds further fuel for the earlier debate: would a cleaner production prove more effective? The debate continues.