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Thrash to the core. - 88%

hells_unicorn, January 11th, 2020
Written based on this version: 1988, CD, Roadrunner Records

When a scene becomes heavily saturated, it's fairly common to uncover some curiosities hiding among the sea of bands that were labeled tag-along acts, often because of what year their material hit the shelves rather than its actual merits. Wisconsin-based thrashers Acrophet are arguably the most unfair victims of the dreaded "also ran" label, as they staked out a fairly unique niche within the thrash metal paradigm that may well have proven formidable had it been unleashed a few years earlier and in one of the major spheres of influence at said time (namely San Francisco or New York). Given the bands own testimony as being exclusively influenced by hardcore and traditional metal and creating a thrashing synthesis of the two independent of the major scenes, which is credible given that the band's history goes back as far as '83 and they were located about as far from California and New York as one could be in the continental U.S., they could be viewed as pioneers of sorts, despite their debut LP Corrupt Minds coming out as late as 1988, when thrash metal and its more punk-driven crossover counterpart were basically in full swing.

The curiously original character of this album is perhaps rivaled only by how impressive it comes across given that most of the musicians involved were barely old enough to drive a car at the time. It has a degree of raw intensity and an overwhelmingly primitive character to it that would ordinarily draw comparisons to Discharge's 1982 debut and perhaps Suicidal Tendencies' first album, yet it also possesses a virtuoso lead guitar display and occasional riff happy thrashing moments that point to the sort of relentless assault normally reserved to what Testament and Death Angel were doing at the time, hence the tendency of modern listeners to peg this as being inspired by the Bay Area sound. The angry yet cathartic result of these two seemingly warring elements comes close to presenting a road-not-taken scenario where instead of simply injecting a punk-like energy level into an otherwise purely NWOBHM-inspired template, Metallica instead crafted an alternate Kill 'Em All that leans a bit more heavily on the hardcore elements and wound up closer to where Nuclear Assault landed on Game Over 3 years later. This latter comparison proves to be an effective one given that bassist/vocalist Dave Baumann's angst-driven shouts definitely have a John Connelly vibe to them.

The hardcore sentiment betrayed by this album results in something that's a bit more stripped down than a typical thrash offering of either the Bay Area or New York persuasion, and generally manifests in songs that keep things concise and mostly shy away from going too far past the 3 minute mark. The feel of things is generally driving yet very much streamlined, with ferocious speeders like "Corrupt Minds", "Lifeless Image" and "Warped Illusions" exuding that sort of keep it short and keep it chaotic brand of mayhem that gets every shaved-headed hooligan annihilating each other in a circle pit, yet also makes room for an occasionally impressive fit of fancy riff work. On the other hand, the slightly longer material on here such as "From The Depths" and "Forgotten Faith" showcases a band that has a solid command of the same basic format that turned late 80s Bay Area classics like The Ultra-Violence and Eternal Nightmare into obligatory classics, complete with roaring guitar solos and crushing riff work that rivals the established order of the thrash scene. But when all is said and done, the song where this band really hits their stride is the lone longer offering "Crowd Distress", which displays plenty of punk elements while allowing this crop of youngsters to truly showcase their chops in developing a punishing thrash anthem through a series of twists and turns.

Apart from the sound of this album being a bit raw and low-fi, to the point of it being slightly robbed of its full neck-ruining potential, there is very little to complain about here. Whether one runs in pure grade thrash or crossover circles, this delivers a masterful jolt of youthful intensity and poise that would sit well with those who either crave the speed-infused brilliance of Testament's The Legacy or the core-infused mastery of D.R.I.'s Dealing With It!. Despite the generally simplistic character of the songwriting, there are no slouches to be found in this quartet in the performance department, and while Todd Saikie and Dave Pelino do a more than adequate job of lighting up their respective 6-strings, special mention should be made of the active, bordering on noodling bass work of Dave Baumann. It doesn't quite go as nuts as what Les Claypool took to Blind Illusion, nor is it the distorted shredding that typified Cliff Burton's pioneering work with Metallica, but it goes well beyond the Ian Hill-like support role often brought to the table by bassist/vocalists in the style such as Tom Araya and Schmier, occasionally showcasing elements of Dan Lilker. It's a complete, forgotten and largely unsung classic that any self-respecting thrash fanatic should hear, and one that stands apart from the pack largely by discovering the style independent of what it had already produced at the time.