This is the second release from Vermont based black metal cult Strix Akesis. A two year wait coming off the back of their first self titled album, which held a spot on my best of 2021 list. Their unique riffs and punkish attitude is still here, though it’s been expanded upon and given a new breath of fresh air thanks to the unique mixture of black metal, hardcore, thrash and even a little bit of traditional heavy metal to boot.
With the storm clouds forming on the horizon, Strix Akesis greets us with thunderous guitars and intense guttural vocals that sound so much brighter and vibrant compared to the first album. Stepping away from the raw demo quality sound and into something a bit more crisp and still keeping that raw edge. I feel like this is an interesting transition from the first release, as the instrumentation here feels more fleshed out and thought through. Each instrument really stands on its own with unique and at times quirky passages, especially with the guitars, many twisting and turning riffs and thunderous breakdowns that shows the band’s influence from hardcore punk. The drums sweep you up as well, creating this stormy atmosphere that’s perfect with the theme of this album.
I do feel like compared to the first, there are a few aspects of this album that I felt were a little lacking. There was this more tribalistic and primal atmosphere the first album built thanks to that raw production quality, it gave this sense of less is more and had this stripped back and more intense attitude to it. While there is a bit of that intensity still there with this release, it feels a lot more grounded and doesn’t have that same wild aspect as before. There was also this moment on the third track, Deathgaze, that could’ve done without. All throughout the album, the vocals were harsh, guttural and raw, but suddenly transitioning into a weird clean singing part that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the track, as he goes right back to the growled vocals of before. It just seemed like a strange transition that didn’t really make too much sense to me and threw me off for the rest of the song.
Other than that I don’t think there’s many drawbacks with this album. I thoroughly enjoyed this album from front to back and believe this is a great step forward for the band. While I do prefer the first release slightly more, it doesn’t ruin the fact that Becoming Thunder is a great step forward and makes me really curious to see where else the band goes in the future. Highly recommend this release.