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Acrania are a relatively new deathcore band from the UK that seems to have become the new Waking the Cadaver in the metal scene, or something equivalent to it, for... reasons, I guess? I dunno, I don't really see it. Metalheads seem to have this infatuation with picking up bands that exist on the borderlines of metal and suddenly making them out to be a huge object of controversy - something that you can either love or completely despise - and it appears Acrania is the newest target in question. Honestly, this doesn't really deserve the hype it's getting one way or another: it's not like Acrania are musically the new fucking Enmity right now or something, and for that matter off the top of my head I can name at least five or six other bands that functionally sound the exact same as this. Oh, well. Just so long as the metal scene has something to distract itself from listening to things that everybody can actually agree on, I guess. Heaven knows how boring that is.
Acrania are basically the epitome of the more metal-minded side of deathcore in 2013: as the lines between brutal death metal and deathcore continue to blur, the scenes are merging and meshing into an increasingly indistinguishable amalgam, and Acrania are one of the comparatively few bands leaning in that direction from a deathcore perspective rather than a BDM one. The music itself isn't really remarkable, as Acrania never really deviate from the deathcore formula of "dark melodic tremolo riffs + heavy breakdowns". I mean, I guess I could distinguish an Acrania song from most other deathcore bands' work, but only because I've become familiar with it on account of it being practically impossible to escape the band's presence in the deathcore scene at the moment.
If you took Ingested's music and watered down their sweet riffs dude in favor of more generic and uninspired constructions, I think you'd be in the same ballpark as Acrania. The biggest flaw in this music isn't its inherent deathcore qualities, it's that I've heard most of these riffs before in at least three bands. Some of the grittier, lower-ended ones are borrowed from the weaker moments on Carnifex's The Diseased and the Poisoned, others take after the quasi-technicality of Rose Funeral, and so on. It's not really an incoherent mess, more like an uninspired rehash of ideas that have already existed for a while now and didn't really need to be reiterated here. The band's breakdowns are unusually weak for deathcore standards - they're sparse, and the guitar-playing is too centered around stop-starts for the point of a breakdown (heavy catchiness) to be driven home with any conviction. The more slamming rhythms sound a bit more convincing, and bring to mind something you might hear from one of the nu-Pathology albums (of which there are now four - Jesus Christ, Pathology does not ever slow down why the fuck not). These don't reach the sort of bro nirvana that I tend to anticipate from slams, but they get the job done and serve as a decent intermission from the relatively uninteresting other aspects of the band.
I actually think the non-breakdown parts of Acrania's music might be too fast for their own good - obviously fast deathcore is nice, but Acrania's interpretation of speed is something else. The music can reach Misericordiam levels of dizzying technicality at times, not by means of musical complexity but just the fact that the band's faster sections are essentially deathcore's answer to Darkness Descends. Obviously speed can help to make something interesting if your riffs aren't enough by themselves, but between the clinical levels of precision and the overly-triggered drum kit, Acrania's interpretation of speed feels awfully restrained and mechanical in execution. Watching something that sounds like it wasn't created by humans going as fast as it possibly can by seemingly inorganic methods isn't exactly what I'd call "fun".
The vocals for this release kind of suck too. The growls sound like Jonny Davy's work with Job for a Cowboy from Ruination and onward, if he hypothetically had no vocal strength and could only sound like half of a vocalist instead of 29. The growls are frustratingly mid-ranged, too, even though they are used in the music as low growls would be, so throughout the length of The Beginning of the End any potential enjoyment of the riffs has to be tempered with an attempt to tolerate the vocalist's annoying, unrelentingly dudebro chav accent. The screams, while not really as offensive, are somehow even weaker and of even less interest. Even the pig squeals, which I usually enjoy in other bands, are rather lackluster in execution here on account of their overwhelmingly airy timbre. A lot of the vocal lines seem to indicate that they're trying to fit way too many lyrics into one song, so oftentimes you'll get to hear passages that sound embarrassingly close to rapping as the band try to shove every single thought deemed to be of importance into the music's constraints.
This isn't really as bad as I've indicated, but I can't exactly write about how something is good but not too good, if you catch my drift. The riffs are okay, if not totally blatant rehashes, and the vocals are lame, but the overall approach is just solid enough for this to be worth a listen every once in a blue moon. I don't see how anybody familiar with deathcore as a genre can describe this album as being the best or the worst anything. Come on, guys, it's literally just there.
Oh, but the lyrics absolutely suck. If that's your reason for hating this then I totally understand.
So here it is, the newest signing to Deeds of Flesh own Unique Leader records, and it doesn't sound like Deeds of Flesh (unfortunately). Instead of a Suffo-clone, we have deafkore distilled to it's most generic possible form. Everything about this band screams generic. The photoshopped album artwork, the "modified ears flaunting" band picture, and even the band concept itself seem to be deafkore vapidity at it's most generic.
Like most deafkore, Acrania write about government conspiracies or what the "elite" is planning on doing to us "sheeple" by copying and pasting their favorite parts from Alex Jones podcasts. So you get your typical "9/11 is an inside job" type of preachy lyrics. They are worded in the most juvenile manner possible, with plenty of F-bombs dropped for the sake of "anger" making even God Hates Us All lyrics seem subtle by comparison. A couple passages show some of the dumbest thesaurus abuse I've ever witnessed, so don't be surprised if this band start writing "Obama is an Annunaki" lyrics some time soon. One thing that stands out about this band is, if they hate organized religion brainwashing the general population and corporations ruining the planet so much, why are they wearing designer clothes in their promo pics and branding their own merchandise with christian imagery (inverted crosses)? This bands whole gimmick is no different than the "food, not bombs" slacktivism you would see the kids in Aus Rotten shirts at a local punk show flaunt, and it shows in the fashion oriented, image pandering laziness of their "muzak".
Musically, this is "muzak". Some angry annoying noise that runs the gamut of everything that is currently bad in metal. You have your Diecast-esque chugga chugga riffs that are rhymically tied in with stop-start, syllabic vocal lines that sound more like rap music. Then we get the random sequence of notes tremolo picked for the "death metal" portions. The drums are always accenting the riffs in hip hop-esque fashion, with such an overbearing emphasis on groove that is way too NWA for even Kevin Talley. For a band with a message, you can't understand anything they're "singing" about, as expected. Bree bree, skree skree vocal lines, a parody of the parody of death metal vocals that are Disgorge's Matti Way burping theatrics, and high pitched whining screams all fight each other for space in these poor compositions. Song structures are formulaic, existing only to go from breakdown to breakdown, with the tremolo picked riffs serving as a bridge between each one. Deafkore by numbers recorded on an Apple laptop with pro tools for maximum plastic and copy-pasted over a weekend effect. Suburban rap on drop tuned guitars with a guy burping out vomit into a microphone and yelling about it occasionally - it's Waking the Cadaver all over again.
There are some guest appearances by a vocalist and two guitarists on this EP, but they add nothing here that is distinguishable from the rest of the band. I've always thought of Unique Leader as a label who signed bands that at least had good ideas somewhere in their disorganization, but this band is a joke. This whole band is so utterly banal that on some level, I can understand why the garbage Metal Blade or Century Media churns out nowadays appeals to people, but here it's distilled of any purpose that the only impression this left upon me was "what the hell do the Deeds of Flesh guys see in this shit?". Considering the opportunity they've been given by being signed to Unique Leader, this band would be wise to put down the bong (see their Youtube videos) and really brush up on death metal history and at least attempt a Cryptopsy or Deeds of Flesh to save face with their intended underground audience, because this has deafkore written all over it.
I first heard Acrania when they released their split with Blue Waffle and I was immediately hooked to their wicked slams. Ever since then I have been eagerly awaiting the release of their first EP. That day has finally come, and The Beginning Of The End certainly exceeded my expectations.
Unlike most other bands, Acrania don't just stick to one formula. They're not afraid to experiment with their sound and include elements from several different genres. They're sort of like Cursed Altar in a way. First and foremost, they're a brutal death metal band, but the slams they play are more akin to deathcore. Normally I hate deathcore, but they manage to combine it with brutal death metal so well I don't even notice it. Not only do they bring forth massive payloads of brutality but they also manage to sprinkle in some melody and colorful technical displays.
They even manage to get in some clean guitars. Thought you'd never hear those on a brutal death metal album. They first appear on “Auctioneer Of Depravity”. They act as a soothing yet ominous intro for the brutality to come. They also appear on “Dimensional Molecular Transcendence”. The jarring transition from balls-out brutality to dark, almost dream-like clean guitars is enough to make you go, “Woah! What the fuck just happened?”
The vocals are incredibly diverse. Like all other brutal death metal bands, he utilizes deep monstrous growls, but he also dominates the high section with lots of vicious screams. He also performs lots of inhaled growls that add an extra element of nastiness to the music. Sure, there are a few bree brees on this album, but they're not too bothersome. At least he isn't talking about how much he likes shredded wheat.
The instrumentation is superb. The drums excel at playing fiery blast beats with lots of double bass, complex fills and crushing slow sections. The bass provides a great deal of muscle to their brutal assault and are even given a few spotlight moments where they can show off a great deal of flair, such as on “The Depopulation Program”. The guitars are just as diverse as the vocals. They still play the chugging rhythms that are a hallmark of slamming brutal death, but they also play a few riffs that have a great deal of groove, as well as a few riffs that show off their technical skills. I was most amazed by the wicked solo near the end of “A Trophy Of Corporate Disfigurement”. I later learned that this solo was performed by Kevin Schwartz of Pathology. Awesome!
The Beginning Of The End is easily one of the best brutal death metal albums I've heard in a long time. Not only do they flawlessly play slamming brutal death metal, but they also include elements of melodic death metal, technical death metal, and deathcore in a way that doesn't feel contrived or forced. Everything feels natural, every element fits nicely with each other. These guys have so many fresh ideas, and I'm eager to see what they'll craft next.
Some albums fail because they go off into no man's land and lose any sense of coherence, while others do so because they are poorly executed. Neither one of these problems afflicts Acrania on their recently released EP, as it is both competently put together and definitely about as textbook of a brutal album with all the breakdowns to boot. What ultimately sinks this poor little beast is that it is so utterly predictable that it listens like the same exact song that was banged out by Whitechapel or Carnifex about 5 years ago, only played 5 times in a row on the same record and varied as little as possible to make it sound like 5 different versions.
All of the obligatory elements are in place, played in the most predictable way possible, as if attempting to spoon-feed the listener a mountain sized order of vanilla paste. Machine gun bass drum mayhem, occasional stops with syncronized vocal grunts to go with them and the usual mechanical sounding blast beats played often and with little organic feel just litter every significant moment of this thing. The only places where things get mildly interesting are during the clean ballad section that occur at the beginning of "Auctioneer Of Depravity" and the fairly competent solo that comes in at the tail end of "A Trophy Of Corporate Disfigurement" (Hey Job For A Cowboy! This is how you do a death metal solo!) and manages to breathe some life into a stream of pre-programmed autopilot music.
This is basically what 5 minutes worth of music sounds like when it is stretched out to nearly 20, and that isn't an exaggeration. Apart from the aforementioned outlier sections, it's all but impossible to distinguish any of these songs from each other. It's understandable that someone who is brand new to extreme metal and doesn't know how exciting it can be when it mixes things up in the manner that most competent brutal and tech. death bands do could get roped in by this, but an experienced ear will find this to be about as banal and vapid as an 80s styled sitcom being rehashed with the same exact script and C-grade stand-in actors. The elaborate skull and tissue imagery on the cover may be impressive, but that's pretty much the extent of it.
After so many listens, I'm still blown away at this EP. It's a truly badass release that isn't just in your face, but also is about as cool and flashy as extreme metal can get. Acrania have been exampilized as one of the freshest bands on the deathcore block, and I can truly see why. This group has so much variety, flavor and potential to the point where this EP is almost as addictive, enjoyable and replayable as a full-length album and in a way, I'm kind of sad it isn't one.
The music on here is heavy, that's obvious but the musicians have so many tricks up their sleeves and ideas to the point where it makes the songs interesting and bearing away from anywhere near tedious or monotonous. Guitarist Jack Simmons for example plays at a pace beared amongst your typical death metal riffing, metalcore-esque melodies, brutal death metal-esque slams with some sweet pinch harmonics thrown in as well; basically think Paul McGuire of Cerebral Bore just with a bit more dynamic. His solo at the end of "A Trophy of Corporate Disfiguration" is an incredible touch as well. Other than him, the drumming on this release provided by Jake Hadley was probably the least interesting to my ears, as he does nothing mindblowing but isn't a bad drummer either. He knows his away around a couple blast beats, but his potential dynamic is flaunted upon his excessive interest to compliment Hadley's riffs rather than contemplate his own perceived drumming style. Or that's at least what it sounds like.
Now that I have those two out of the way, I need to talk about Sam Bonnett (the bass player) as he is the second best interesting thing on this EP. His playing is substantially comparable to Alex Webster in his really young days and the EP is mastered in a way to where you can hear Bonnett's playing almost throughout the entire thing. He also does a fair amount of bass drops throughout the EP (I counted about 4 or 5 on my last listen through) and even has his own bass solo at the end of the track "The Depopulation Programme" wherein melodic riffs take the backing leaving his thump lines all to the listener. I really feel like Bonnett does something interesting and great for this release. Whoever said "bass doesn't exist in deathcore" is a moron.
Finally the vocalist is a much needed mention in this review as he is a fiend. This kid really knows his vocals and I'm about to explain why. First off, Luke Griffin's vocals are about as varied and have as such dynamic as pretty much everyone else in the band. Unlike most deathcore singers, this guy balances through about 5 different vocalizing styles in one song alone instead of the 2 or 3 that the usual vocalist in this genre showcases on an entire album. I'll start with his midrange growls as this vocal seems to be slightly more abundant than the other vocalizing techniques he performs (I guess "his main one" so to speak). His midrange is (presumably) done in the false chord technique and has a nasty-kind of snarl to it. If I could compare what his growls sound like to anyone, it would definitely have to be Jonny Davy of Job for a Cowboy. And before I move on from the topic of this vocal, I need to mention that other than the casual growling rhythm interval he uses, he also regularly does this rapping-like rhythm in some of the lyrics which is reminiscent of Chris "Fronz" Fronzak of Attila. Even though I personally loathe Attila and think they're one of the worst and most ridiculous bands to appear out of metalcore as of late, I feel like Griffin's growl rapping, however, isn't as flashy and douchebaggy as the latter of Fronz's usual annoying mannerisms go.
Anyway moving along on the list of Luke Griffin's vocals; he incorporates not one, but two styles of gutturals. One of the gutturals sounds like Mike Majewski meets John Gallagher and his other one sounds like a more squeally version of Jeremiah Blue Jensen (of Guttural Secrete). He also incorporates his screamed vocals in the fry scream technique, which I can't really compare to any vocalist in particular... but they sound just about as good as everything else here. Annnnddddd finally, there's of course the pig squealing; a classic deathcore addition in the list of vocalizing techniques. Although his pig squeals are rare, they're executed at appropriate moments and aren't some annoying Annotations of an Autopsy/Doom-era JFAC worship.
This EP is a majesty of badassery. It's a beautiful metal mini-opus and is tons of fun. Hopefully The Beginning of the End is actually the beginning of the beginning because I am absolutely craving a full-length album by these boys. If you hate deathcore, but love almost every other extreme metal genre out there, I would recommend giving this EP a listen to hopefully change your opinion on the genre.
First of all, I don't hate deathcore. I used to be really into it, but these days I only really listen to Carnifex, Rings of Saturn and Bound By Exile. While I still appreciate bands like Despised Icon, Suicide Silence and Whitechapel, I don't listen to them very often any more. What I don't appreciate is bands who think it's still cool to just play monotonous breakdowns with boring vocals and lazy drumwork and get praised as "a new and original outfit". Bull fucking shit, Carnifex were making the exact same style of music found on this EP in 2008, and to be honest they were doing it better.
You know what to expect from this EP already. Melodic tremolo riffs mixed with tons and tons of repetitive breakdowns, a vocalist who alternates between fry screams and hoarse growls and nothing else and a drummer who thinks blasting through absolutely everything will make him sound REALLY talented.
The bland forgettable riffs go nowhere and they only make up about 20% of the guitar work anyway. The other 80% is made up entirely of the same breakdown over and over. They manage to make a 16 minute EP feel like an eternity. The bass is also completely inaudible, leading me to believe that the bassist did what nearly every bassist of recent does and just followed the guitars throughout.
As i've already said the vocals are so typical of the deathcore genre. This guy could be any deathcore vocalist. His screams have no character and a very grating, and the growls sound forced as hell. Like the only reason he's growling isn't because he's comfortable doing it but because he knows that's the minimum two styles you need to do to front a band like this.
Back to the drums. Like I said further up the drummer just blasts through everything. Even the bands with the fastest blast beats/double bass know to slow down when it comes to the breakdown parts (i.e. Ingested) but not this guy. He's clearly been listening to Fallujah for ideas on how to play drums.
To be perfectly honest you can find tons of bands like this getting promoted on the Total Deathcore Facebook page but Acrania seems to be the only one getting any real attention (thanks in part to collaborations with members of Pathology and Bloodshot Dawn, who are both actually respectable modern tech death bands, and tours with big name death metal bands like Cerebral Bore).
I don't see what the big fuss is and I definitely don't hear any potential to do better further in their career. They'll either plod the same ground over and over in the same way as Rose Funeral or go poppy or something like Chelsea Grin. Either way this band is definitely not one to keep an eye on. If you want enjoyable deathcore that was made recently, look up Bound By Exile.
Even though they have been around for less than a year, the boys in Acrania waste no time. The band's debut EP, "The Beginning of the End", is a crazy ride of brutal death metal and slam. This will certainly turn heads in the metal community and should be the beginning of a very promising career for the quartet hailing from the UK.
Although the whole record is a brutal and equal effort from all members, the one that shines the most is vocalist Luke Griffin. The range is insane, and he never once skips a beat. His fry screaming can be compared to Ian Bearer of Rings of Saturn, and his pig squeals are similar to the squeals present in Cytotoxin's music. This much range is very rare to come by, and it is flawless throughout the EP.
To start off, you are treated with an introduction song, appropriately named "The Beginning". The brutality starts right away, as the fast tempo intro gets you locked in right from the start. The second song, "Auctioneer of Depravity", further shows the band's potential and talent. You are first treated with a slow and beautiful guitar melody, and it sets you into more of a soft listening mood. However, before you get the chance to wipe that tear away, Like Griffin delivers a brutal vocal introduction, and you're back with the brutality. The song has a fast tempo, and you are given a first glace at the ridiculous range Griffin has in his chops.
The third song, "The Depopulation Programme", starts with the same fast tempo as the previous two tracks. However, as the song progresses, it slows down into a more slam like breakdown for a while, which may slow down the EP a little too much for the way the tempo was before. The speed comes back at the end, and you are also given a slow bass groove to close out the song. The next song, "Dimensional Molecular Transcendance", has all of the musical elements in the first three songs molded into one. The slam like breakdown returns, as well as the slow guitar melody. The highlight of this song are the vocals. The range is the most noticeable, and never falters.
The final song of the EP is "A Trophy of Corporate Disfigurement". This song shows the most musicianship and talent than any other song in the record. The double bass on the drums is extremely fast, and there is an ending guitar solo with sweep picking. This kind of ending leaves the listener eager for more. Being how this is the lone guitar solo on the record, it makes you wish there were more throughout the EP, but happy you got treated with one in the end.
Acrania have started their young career with a true success with their debut EP "The Beginning of the End". It is definitely worth a listen, and will not be a disappointment. Remember the name Acrania in the near future, because these guys are definitely going places!