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Acrophet might not be the greatest thrash metal band ever, but surely worth more than what they collected during these long, hard years. I discovered them on the mighty Stars On Thrash compilation and, together with Atrophy and Gothic Slam, they represent the elite of the most overlooked bands in history of the 80s thrash metal. A thrash metal that was still influenced by embryonic forms of hardcore and speed metal to form the classic “in your face” songs that achieve the goal of bringing high in the sky the flag of one of the most sincere music ever in those years.
Ok, this speech is a bit excessive if compared to the real, effective music here, that is nothing but good, but the conviction, the passion of these bands is something that nowadays is hard to find and we must give them a special credit for it. These guys really take no prisoners along the 30 minutes of this album and they show an enviable burden of technique too to complete the panorama. Ok, they are mostly about impact and speed but they are good at it and they are never chaotic in their unbelievable violence.
The introduction already shows good guitars duets that are full of more technical parts while the real opener is the title track that I already knew from the compilation. The tempo is incredibly fast and the perfect mixture of thrash and hardcore is done greatly. The fast riffs are alternated to sudden, more mature parts under the sign of more mature thrash. The same one at the beginning to “Slaves of Sin” but when the palm muting enters the sound, the mess is created and in a good way. The drums are essential but it’s good like this. Old fashion! The main role is by the guitars and the vocals. The first ones are incredibly relentless in their obsessive march through duets, stop and go and fast riffs.
The vocals are quite unpolished and perfect because they conserve the rawness of the thrash metal with just a hint of hardcore but they are not childish at all. Some influences are inevitably taken by Anthrax and this band sometimes in even faster and more compact. Surely, during the long up tempo parts they reach great levels of violence. The songs structures are quite dynamic and catchy, showing great tempo changes and the always very good guitars work. Even if the production is not that great, the violence is always high and concentrated in short songs to increase the sensations of the pure impact. There are no fillers and this is a thing I love. They never add something that is unnecessary and all is reduced to the bone. That is great for this genre.
What I would have preferred is a higher bass sound. So often the band stops to underline the bass parts but they are not powerful enough and it’s a pity. Check “Crowd Distress” and its almost oriental breaks by the lead guitars. The rest, as you deduce, is on up tempo with sudden stop with mid-paced riffs. The continue flow of guitars solo on “Crime for Living” is astonishing while the refrain is always easily recognizable. “Holy Spirit” begins with keyboards to turn soon into a quite fast track where they expose their religious ideas, bound to the hypocrisy, to the politics and money.
The last songs salute us with neverending up tempo parts and especially the last “Victims of the Holocaust” is astonishing for the vocals duets. Overall, I must say that at the end you are almost stunned by such an overdose of brutality and that’s exactly what Acrophet are about. No bullshits, just violence. You may say that it’s always the same damned kind of music from the beginning to the end, with few variations. Well, who cares? Listen to gothic instead. Acrophet welcome everybody into thrash and we are talking about the good one…
"...you'd better start running and hope that Jesus really saves..."
Now that I've stated that Acrophet is never mentioned in thrash (or any other circle) in my Agony review, it's about time the four-piece were dragged from the pile.
Wisconsin's Acrophet aren't at the bottom center of the pile that is metal's mass car crash. While countless bands lie upside down and drooling in this vehicular wasteland, that area is reserved for sputterers like Anialator and Executioner; almost entirely unremarkable bands that are as audibly horrid as they are rightfully blanked. Nah, Acrophet careened into the outskirts of the pile, got a wheel snagged on Angeles del Infierno's rear axle and is rocking back and forth trying to get loose. I believe I'm in the minority on this, for in the ears of many reviewers Acrophet aren't the pick of the litter and with that I have to agree, but instead of having more of the usual denigration heaved upon them, it should be known that the band can musically pass go with ease and should collect some sort of reward. They're simply better than they're made out to be.
In a nutshell, the four-piece crosswire the aggravation and eye-peeling speed chaos of hardcore, thrash's baneful hedge of thorns appeal, and the technical skill of the Bay Area scene regressed to a more primitive time. Full of fight and hostile energy, these thirteen tracks probably should've spacewarped right over the pile and into the debris-free lanes of recognition, at least for awhile. I limit this awareness by time because eventually the music will collect some dust on its tires by '90-'91 and when '06 meanders through is a victim of dry rot.
But despite the eventual layer of dead human skin particles, the quartet still manage a mighty product that overpowers the likes of Realm, debut Devastation, and Recipients of Death, but that's not really saying much, is it? For more name dropping, the youngsters (word has it their average age was about 17 at the time this rolled off the reel) manage to evince feral direction from the likes of early (not really crossover, though it's in there too) DRI, Sacred Reich, thrash-era Suicidal Tendencies, and some decent riffage that would be stale by the time Viking, Defiance, or Atrophy get a hammerlock on it in a few months. In other words, they play the same riffs as those bands, but Acrophet didn't forget to strap on the supercharger, so instead of melodic toe-tappers we get fire breathers that have the potential to be mellifluous, and the thing is they're capable of doing both.
"Intro to Corruption"'s coarse guitar twizzle can give the impression the band's gonna try to impress with fretboard dazzle scarred by ideas beyond their level, but when the title cut stampedes into earshot nine-tenths of that feeling implodes. Man, I'll tell ya, this track is the E.F. Hutton of the album. Like a trailer-spitting tornado it starts - I'm hard pressed to locate a song that uncoils pure intensity like this, and tracks living on Mind Wars, Pleasure to Kill, and Skeptics Apocalypse spin to mind alarmingly fast. The rest of the album follows in much the same teeth-grinding passion, exertion abound, and as each tune screeches by one should notice brief technical passages spritzed throughout the disc that makes the intro seem more like cruel deceit. For instance, side two's "Holy Spirit" and "Living in Today" hail velocity, yet show it's not all speed lunacy as they tone their rhythmic muscle often with deliberate and interesting enough cords, the first backed by a fairly accomplished solo other speedcore guitarists wouldn't mind owning.
Dave Baumann's vocals are of the hollering hardcore lot, actually adequate for the course yet start to age by the album's end, but the already acknowledged intensity and not-so-underused rhythm shifts manage to keep things out of the ditch for awhile. Blocks of potent backing vocals enliven some areas with bruisers "From the Depths" and "Forgotten Faith" flailing to mind, the latter monstrously frash, quite unstoppable and crisp despite its rage. Unfortunately the disc ends with a throwaway, "Victims of the Holocaust", quick and almost pointless, awkward in stride and vocally backed to the hilt.
The end brings us to time again. After a few spins, even an unseasoned listener may be able to make out the sliding metallic *shiiik shiiik* of the era's reaper sharpening its blade amidst the wholehearted wailing of the band's debut. It's a shame to me 'cos as one of the lp's fans, I'd like more people to appreciate the tidal force mixture of energy and unexpected acumen, but that's just me.
"...the end of one's desire, the end of all mankind..."