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A really good demo, and a must for the hardcore - 70%

OlympicSharpshooter, June 18th, 2004

(Note: The tracklisting for this demo is wrong, or at least is a different version than the one listed at Anacrusis' official webpage. The listing should be as follows:

1. Annihilation Complete- Disembowelled
2. Imprisoned
3. Pendulum
4. Fighting Evil
5. R.O.T
6. Frigid Bitch
7. Vulture's Prey
8. Apocalypse
9. Injustice

This is the version I'm reviewing. ~OSS)

Now this is an intriguing piece. Anacrusis was a very good thrash band, early on blowing out the speakers with sheer aggression before becoming a high-minded and innovative prog metal unit, integrating progressive song structures into thrash very early in the game (see Watchtower, Coroner, and Justice-era Metallica) and experimenting with keyboards and symphonic elements to an almost unheard of degree before their untimely demise. However, those albums will be given their own analysis whenever I get around to it; right now we are focused on the very first piece of material they ever put out the Annihilation Complete demo that lead to them getting an album deal to make Suffering Hour.

This is heady stuff, the sound of an inspired group of metalheads taking a chance, paying their hard-earned cash to get their music out into the world, young men taking the world by the balls and saying "We're Anacrusis, listen to our shit!", starry-eyed dreamers looking to make an impact on the world of metal. There's freshness to it, that "demo" smell that makes you feel really excited because of all the vistas that are open to the band after this humble manifesto. It's also got no lack of energy, because this thing is a real skullcrusher, just this low-down (and extremely down-tuned) dirty thrashing monster, and it's a very indie-sounding indie.

And yet, this demo sounds better than the majority of legitimately released (i.e. label supported) extreme metal albums. It's even darker and heavier than Suffering Hour because of the production; the extremely down-tuned guitars (forecasting Pantera?) just battering down your resistance until you just sit there, mouth agape begging the bad men to stop. Unfortunately, this deafening guitar and murky bass come at a cost, which is unsurprisingly vocalist Nardi who turns in a solid performance at the very low-end of the non-existent mix. He's always audible, and he sounds in tip-top shape throughout, it's just not as good as the Suffering Hour album proper.
There are a number of differences in each track obviously, from different phrasings to completely different solos and different intros, etc. Basically, all of the stuff that you'd expect in songs going from conceptual stage to finished product, but on a few songs there are some very marked differences. A good example is "Fighting Evil", in which Nardi shoots off some passable Halford-style high-notes on the chorus, unfortunately giving off a heavy whiff of fromage considering how down, dirty and dead serious the Suffering Hour album is. Another example is "R.O.T." which due to a combination of the pitch dark production and some multi-tracking becomes a pretty grim and overwhelming piece of near-black metal, the echoes and raving of Nardi sounding like they're being howled out of some impenetrable abyss, or perhaps a recording studio with very poor acoustics. In addition, the guitar is so up-front that the hammer riff on the pre-chorus that it feels like the sort of sledge that you'd expect to have a blastbeat. Still, by whatever hook or crook it becomes an unnoticed extreme metal classic in my eyes. You get a lot of weird echo effects on a lot of tracks, as if they were giddy at the possibilities of a four-track tape recorder and decided to milk it for all it's worth. It adds ambience, and you have to wonder why they never used it on Suffering Hour. Either way is quality though.

Now, alternate versions of your Suffering Hour favs is all well and good, but most of the real Anacrusis fans out there (and non-fans alike) are probably more interested in the handful of songs here that never made it to that LP, specifically "Pendulum", "Vulture's Prey", "Apocalypse", and "Injustice". "Pendulum" is unremarkable, just another high-quality thrasher that is a slight dip in quality from the rest of the album. "Vulture's Prey" is thunderous and definitely worth your time. Nardi sings a lot of it clean which is a nice change up, but the really shocking bit is how he plays with his voice and does some very King Diamond-y operatic bits that never turn up outside of this song really. I mean check out the end vocal solo, which is very reminiscent of the classic King willowy high-note. I believe this song was reworked on one of the later albums. "Apocalypse" on the other hand has a strangely counter-intuitive funk riff that rocks, doubles back on itself, before stuttering forward again. The only thing I can compare it to is Death Angel's "The Organization" (only more epic and straight faced) or spiritually Judas Priest's "Killing Machine". Some more echo effects, some strange stereo tricks, and a regal solo later and you have a shoulda-been classic. It's even got a mellow section for god's sake, with some tripped out vocals. This is actually pretty proggy, pointing at the creative journey that this band would undertake throughout the rest of the catalogue. "Injustice" was a song that got brought back several times throughout the bands career (eventually made it onto the Reason album), and with good reason. It's a strong song with a punky ethic and a really neat drum sound on this recording, with a really cool riff and another coupla nice solos.

This is a great listen for Anacrusis fans but I can't really recommend it over Suffering Hour, Reason, Manic Impressions, or Screams & Whispers for the new Anac fan. Well worth the download though, and people who love SH would do well to investigate the non-LP tracks on display here.

Stand-Outs: "R.O.T", "Apocalypse", "Vulture's Prey"