Saturday, May 15, 2010

Acerbus - Emanating Darkness

Acerbus - Emanating Darkness
2000, Self-Release

Once again, I discovered a band completely by accident, just wandering around on the internet. I was mainly interested in Acerbus because of the fact that they hail from Austin, my old hometown, a place I spent seven years of my life in, and I had never known that city to have anything even remotely resembling a strong extreme metal scene. Sure, there have been death metal bands (Death of Millions) and a few black metal groups (Of The Fallen, Vesperian Sorrow, Averse Sefira) springing from that soil, but nothing really at all notable - or nothing I considered to be exceptionally notable. So it was a pleasant surprise for me to learn about this group, who are a dedicated trio of talented musicians, and who seem to be convinced they must push the boundaries of their respective genre in order to be heard...

'Emanating Darkness' is a collection of six songs, spanning some fifteen minutes, that stay, for the most part, on the 'grind' side of the death metal world, combining spastic drumming, an overly-distorted rhythm guitar, and very low vocals to good effect - as well as some left-of-center song structure ideas. As usual, with these kinds of bands, the drum sound is very thin at times, and when Larry, the skin basher, accelerates to abnormal speeds in extended blasts, things start to rattle all around uncontrollably and the snare begins to fade - a common problem. His drumming is never any less that fluent, however, and I really can't complain. He shows much more energy, drive, and creativity (read: talent) than a lot of the other time-keepers playing this kind of music...his cymbal work is especially interesting to listen to, and as the band claims to derive inspiration from jazz, this is mainly where that bleeds through outside of the twisted forms of the songs. This drum sound/production hits the ear exactly like Phlegm, a band that I used to like almost a decade ago, and who were chasing the same sort of demons Acerbus are after: meaning a tightly held or claustrophobic sound (one can almost sense the small enclosed spaces in which this music was written and recorded), pounding, fibrillating, slightly technical guitars, a solid charging grind base in the rhythm section, guttural sub-basement screams and grunts, and an eye on progressive schemata in the forms of the songs. While Phlegm had an unearthly roar in their music, like a Mk. II going into berzerk mode, a sort of blasphemic intent, Acerbus are much more reserved, collected, and level-headed...which means that their sense (and control) of dynamics is at least twice as effective. This doesn't seem to be the sort of band that finds joy in sheer brutality...rather, there is a sense of purpose and a noticeable restraint in their machinations. If nothing else, I think this band wants to show what is possible in this brand of metal when a few musicians do not stop at the perceived 'limits' of creativity. I think they will only get better at it as well...

These tracks are all very short, as you would expect from the running time I gave you above, but their construction does not really leave you wishing for more...thematic ideas are brought into the light, paused over, dissected, torn inside out, and then tossed aside. As with most bands of this sort, the concentration is on rhythmic complexity rather than melodic flights of fancy (yes, I have said that so many times before, but there is a real division in the death metal world between bands that are essentially 'melodic' and bands that are 'rhythmic'), and Cory, the guitarist, shows an excellent grasp both of the fundamentals of this genre and of the ability to travel, in bizarre moments of inspiration, into original realms of six-string manipulation...I think I can say with some authority that there are moments of guitar playing on this recording that you will not recognize at all...very few concessions are made to the listener. It is this aspect of Acerbus's sound that I think is the most promising, and it is their greatest asset besides the drumming. One of the more interesting things about Acerbus is the fact that they do not quote extensively from other death bands...no, not at all, they seem to legitimately want to carve out their own signature brand or style of melodicism, and I am impressed by that. Of course, it could just be that they listen to different music - things that I don't get to hear, but I don't think that's necessarily true. Reading their bio material, I see that they cite Cryptopsy and Suffocation as influences, and I can definitely hear the Cryptopsy in this...and yet, at the same time, it isn't anything that I would consider 'dominating' in their sound. I believe they are mainly inspired by the musical ideas that bands of this sort have spread, not necessarily the exact style - hair-splitting, perhaps, but in a genre such as this where there are so many bands that sound exactly alike, you have to get down to the level of subterranean subtleties in order to 'categorize' individual musicians. They do follow in a style that is recognizably death metal, and in a certain grind format as I said above, but they are not in any way followers of 'larger' bands in the genre. This can only be a positive thing for them, and I hope they continue with their researches into original terrain on future recordings. Also, unlike the majority of grind groups, Acerbus actually have the ability to write complete songs that feature a progression of melodic and rhythmic ideas, riff flowing into riff, segments building on each other, instead of just short shocks of concussive noise or random ideas that stand on their own, isolated. So, for a group that is just starting, getting their name out there in the world and building a following, they seem to have all the advantages any collection of musicians could want - what they will do with it...that's the question!

In any case, I enjoyed listening to this material, and if you are into the progressive side of death metal - bands that look to the future instead of the past - you owe it to yourself to seek this band out...