I drove from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, yesterday with my friend Joseph Schafer (Invisible Oranges) for the purpose of attending the 2016 edition of Famine Fest. The festival began last night and resumes again tonight. I’m going to quickly mention two bands I saw last night that made big impressions, and then toss some new music your way.
The chance to see this band from Victoria, British Columbia, was one of the main draws of Famine Fest for me. I really liked their 2015 album Ruins, and I had missed out on other chances to see them in the past.
The members of the Bay Area’s Acephalix, whose crushing 2012 album Deathless Master I reviewed here, have their claws in a lot of grisly pies. In addition to unleashing sonic destruction in Acephalix, vocalist Dan Butler, guitarist Kyle House, and bassist Luca Indrio are also members of Vastum, another killer band we featured recently and who are now in the recording/mixing phase of their next album at Earhammer Studios in Oakland.
AND guitarist House, bassist Indrio, and Acephalix drummer Dave Benson are also the three members of a band named Lawless, with Indrio and House also sharing the vocal duties. Earlier this month the trio released their first demo under the Lawless banner. Titled Nite of the Wolf, it includes three songs and is available for download at Bandcamp (HERE) for $3, or on tape for $5.90 (limited to 200 copies) from Blood Divine.
The obvious question is how does Lawless’ music compare to that of Acephalix, given that both bands share the same guitarist, bass player and drummer, and given that both Deathless Master and Nite of the Wolf were recorded by the late Jeff Leppard Davis at SF’s Lennon Studios? Well, if you know anything about Acephalix, you would be shocked if I told you that it turns out these guys decided to form an outlet for their interest in acoustic folk music. So, I’m not telling you that.
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 . . .
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want to be crushed flat by the metal I listen to, like an ant beneath a boot. But — as the last flow of viscous liquid leaves my mangled body — I do like to have a smile on my face. The new album from San Francisco’s Acephalix, Interminable Night, does this nicely — smashes you flat in a pool of your own goo, but leaves you with a ghoulish grin as the rictus sets in.
Catastrophic death metal really doesn’t need any bells and whistles to achieve its primal effect. Down-tune the guitars and set them spinning and belching out toxic clouds of oily smoke; load up the drums with full belts of high-caliber ammo and pull all the way back on the trigger to spray the landscape with full-auto, d-beat destruction; chain a bear to the ground and then taunt him until he’s in full-throated, pissed-off, roaring mode; then set the whole thing on fire so you get the right level of energy from the performers, and you’re good to go. That’s the winning formula of Acephalix.
But Acephalix doesn’t stop there. They’ve added bells and whistles, too, and that makes them stand out just as much as the brute authenticity of their Dismember-worshipping, old-school attack: brief but well-placed gouts of reverb-effected guitar solos, mortar-blast pounding from the drums that explode amidst the rock rhythms and d-beats, and crawling bits of death-doom to remind you that “hope” is a foreign word in the Acephalix lexicon. (more after the jump . . .)