Formed after founding member Acherontas V.Priest (ex-Acrimonious, ex-Nocternity) following the demise of Stutthof in 2007, Acherontas wasted no time in making their existence known. Since forming, the band has gone through a number of members, leaving the rest of the cast filled by 2012 inductees Gionata Potenti (Deathrow, Fuck Off and Die!) on drums, guitarist Saevus H. (Devathorn, Warbled Arma), and Scorpios Androctonus (Crimson Moon, Melechesh) on keyboards, as well as bassist Hierophant, who joined the ranks a year later. Aside a myriad of line-up changes, the band has unleashed four full-lengths, five splits, an EP, and a live album in 2014. All of these were met with plenty of praise, not to mention theories that this is an NSBM group, a belief that has reportedly been debunked. Not willing to slow down, the newly forged five-piece entered the studio to record Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification), their fifth album since 2007's Tat Tvam Asi (Universal Omniscience). But does it show a band that only continues to evolve, or is this, perhaps, their weakest formation yet?

Before even discussing anything about the music, we need to take a look at the concept behind Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification). Acherontas himself has gone on record to explain the idea of this release, which stands as the band's most ambitious recording, not to mention one that seems to be meant to separate Acherontas from the Black Metal world of today. This statement, provided in the press release that accompanied this review material, is as follows:

"From the depths of the Typhonian tradition, Ma IoN dives into the most Stygian waters of the Primal Godess to reveal the vast atavistic elements of the past unto a new Reptilian Prism. Unification of the sacred shamanic formulas and the dark Typhonian sources, the matriarchic tunnels of Layil with the sun-clad halls of Ra. Invoking the primal Therionic Self to enable the transformation of the sorcerer and calling upon the entities of Knowledge, Ma IoN forms a key to unlock the mysteries hidden beneath, far from the modern degradation of the nowadays circus, so-called imbecile, hipster occult BM scene. We do not belong in any of your poisoned scenes or part of your public relationship parties of entertainment... We are here to serve the magical current of the ancients, the underground art of the '90s era and to offer a magical provocation to those with eyes to see and feel their potential, to stir the stagnated waters of reality. We ignite the torch to burn the veil and unlock the subconscious of the dreamer to hunt and embrace the Luciferian adversary. These are not just empty words, but shells that reform in Chi so the Great Planetary Work to be carved."

Other than that ambitious conceptual declaration of solidarity, Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) does have a solid output. The music to this recording is crisp with a digital approach that doesn't take away from the bite of the instruments, or some of the countless audio samples or segments of Ambience. Consider a slightly more modern Dissection album, or the kind of production and mastering you might find on a Dimmu Borgir release, but hold back the sleeker elements enough to make the somewhat sharpened guitars come through a bit on the dirty side, and you have a good idea how this one sounds when the band is actually playing, which works well with the dark and nightmarish introductory track "Fires of Prometheus". The sinister worship and pounding hellish landscapes fill out the subtle Middle Eastern nuances until a bout of clean singing kicks in towards the end. It gives way to the slightly frost-capped "Nereid Tide of Neptune's Rudra", introducing the ritualistic environment to the band's performances nicely, though acting as a secondary introduction track that slowly grows richer, allowing the slower paced material to go somewhere instead of staying in place to benefit the next track.

And then there's the closing performance from the band on "Therionic Transformation". The music starts off fairly grim, utilizing deeper chants to set up a cold, ritualistic atmosphere that eloquently channels the early second wave of Black Metal sound. The longer the ritual goes on, the more epic and foreboding the landscape becomes, all leading to quite the depressing conclusion. "Ma-Ion (Formulas of Reptilian Unification)" manages to illicit strong emotions within the music as well. The track begins with an enlightening sensation to the guitars, only to dive head first into blast beats with a hint of Death Metal, as well as some background voices that make things all the more eerie.

While the band's performances are fantastic, there's fewer of them scattered across this seventy plus minute experience than you would expect. A good chunk of this album winds up being the many ambient tracks that play up both the Middle Eastern atmosphere, as well as the shaman-related themes. Some are not that bad, such as the just over a minute-and-a-half "Convolut-ion, Manifestat-ion, Secret-ion, Karma-lravatl the Thunders Emerged", which carries a subtle tribal rhythm behind the loud clanging of bells, or the small segment that hits around four minutes in on "Lunar Transcendence & the Secret Kiss of Nut". But then you have tracks like "Permutation in the Aetheric Void (Ma-Ion Sacred Seal)", which is just under four minutes of Noise, random drum beats, and a didjeridoo. This all gives way to more of that nightmarish environment "Fires of Prometheus" created on the eight minute piece of Ambience titled "Shaman and the Waning Moon", which, sadly, just gets boring after a while, much like the start of "The Awakening of Astral Orphic Mysteries - Behind the Eyes of Irida".

While the chunks of Ambience are nice, after a while they get incredibly tedious and, coupled with the statement Acherontas himself made about the album, only makes Ma IoN (Formulars of Reptilian Unification come off as incredibly pretentious with the delusion of trying to break the modern Black Metal mold that this album perfectly fits in with. Countless times the performances reminisced of modern legends like Dimmu Borgir and , though you'd still happen on traces of, or songs similar to, early pioneers of the second wave sound like Immortal, Inquisition, or even the melodic early Emperor would unleash.

Honestly, if the Ambience were cut down, Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) would stand as a solid album that let those segments progress the concept naturally. The performances themselves are top notch, spanning various Black Metal territories with ease, all the while benefiting from those aforementioned elements when not abused to pad things out. Even then, the actual songs are good enough that the Ambience is so far from necessary, but thanks to how much is present, you'll probably forget half of the actual performances you heard until a second spin in where you'll find yourself giving up on resisting the urge to skip past the obvious atmospheric filler.

But, this doesn't mean the talent on display isn't worth checking out at all. If anything, Acherontas is just guilty of trying to build this album up to be more epic and genre defining than it wound up being. Ma IoN (Formulas of Reptilian Unification) has some damn good Black Metal songs, a few good bits of Ambience, and a choice you need to make: Do you sit through the padding and eventually grow so bored that it takes away the impact of the music almost entirely, or cut most of it out yourself and make the album flow better through audio editing software or keeping certain tracks out of the playlist? Personally, I suggest the latter of those two options, as there is still some impressive reasons present in the few songs that justify hearing this album at least once.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.