Deathless Master, the titanic new album by San Francisco’s Acephalix, is the best blast of old-school death metal that 2012 has yet delivered, and it’s difficult to conceive of anything else topping it by year end.
The formula for the album’s success is relatively simple to state, but if translating the formula into reality were easy, the album wouldn’t be such a noteworthy addition to the year’s phalanx of new metal:
- write songs that grab the listener by the back of the neck and slam heads into hard surfaces without any possibility of resistance
- tune the guitars and the bass so low that they’re communing with the core of the earth
- max out the distortion to the point where guts churn with cancerous tumors and listeners can smell the suffocating fumes of that giant chainsaw sound so vividly that their nose hairs burn
- step up the gain and raise the tuning to produce guitar solos that ignite like phosphorous bombs in a black night
- shift all the sound with a reverb effect so that it echoes like the inside of a tomb
- configure the drum patterns into a mix of d-beats, blast-beats, and straight rock rhythms that carry you back to the genesis of Swe-death circa 1991 (and throw in some cowbell for good measure)
- add vocals . . . add vocals like . . .well, fuck, damned few people can sing like Dan . . .
So yes, let’s stay with the vocals for a moment. Death metal vocals can be perfectly fine without being unusually distinctive. They can capture the right atmosphere without ever becoming instantly recognizable the next time you hear them. But Dan’s vocals are in another league altogether.
Much of the time, they’re tuned even lower than the bass and guitar, a cavernous bellow that rumbles like a giant cement mixer filled with skulls and boulders. But the range is vast, and Dan delights in climbing the register in extended howls without ever losing his overpowering atmosphere of monstrous menace.
And when I say extended, I mean extended. He can hold his grisly roars for longer than the vast majority of death metal vocalists in the game today, to the point where the hairs on your neck stand at attention. And on top of all this, you can also understand the lyrics.
Behind the vocalist, the rest of Acephalix transport you back to the days of Nihilist, Grave, and Dismember, with not a lot of flash but with impeccable feel for this kind of primal, titanic metal.
On their last album, Interminable Night (a collection of songs from two previous demos, which we reviewed here), Acephalix came close to capturing this sound, though elements of the band’s crust-punk origins were still in the mix. But Deathless Master is even more massive, even more steeped in the corpse-strewn wastelands of stripped-down, smoke-belching death metal. On this album, Acephalix have dug a mass grave, salted it with sulfur, and beckon you to take the plunge.
Deathless Master will be released by Southern Lord on April 10. One song from the album has premiered so far (at CVLT NATION) — “On Wings”. Check it out:[audio:http://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/04-On-Wings….mp3|titles=Acephalix – On Wings…]