Review Summary: Anacrusis make their defining album. Combining thrash with prog to great effect. Featuring some excellent drumming by Chad Smith.
By the early 90’s there were a lot of thrash bands that had the same sound and the same premise behind their lyrics, because, as with every genre, it had eventually become saturated with imitators; Anacrusis
were not one of those immitarors. Anacrusis
were a thrash band that had a very unique edge due to their multi-faceted vocalist, a string of talented drummers, technical playing, progressive influences and thoughtful lyrics, but their first two albums definitely had their flaws. All those flaws were finally worked out on their third offering, Manic Impressions
, when everything finally fell into place for them musically. This is the album where Anacrusis
completely and totally captured the sound, the feelings, and the technicality they only hinted at on previous releases.
The most noticeable difference is in the production of the album. Past albums’ productions always left a little bit to be desired, but that was finally fixed here. Manic Impressions
has a very cold, mechanical sound, with the guitars and bass sounding razor sharp and very clear. The drums have also picked up a sharper and less in your face sound. This new approach allows every note and sound to be heard. It’s a good thing too, because Anacrusis
have a lot going on within most of their songs. Another vast improvement worth noting is in the vocals of Ken Nardi. His vocals have finally been formed into the perfect sound and use the band was looking for. Ken uses a wide range of vocal styles within the songs, and in the past it sometimes seemed like the vocal changes were coming without his complete control, but that is not the case anymore.
Musically the band has progressed far beyond anything they’ve ever done before. The music seems cold, precise, and calculated. Every note, every cymbal crash, every pluck of a string seems to be calculated and specifically placed there. The music is still riffy and thrashy for the most part, but they’ve added a lot more technicality to the overall form of those riffs and notes. The bass has also taken a more lead role, sometimes seeming to be the lead instrument with the guitars following behind it, and it is very clear in the mix. Even when it is not the lead instrument though, the bass doesn’t simply follow the guitars; it is always playing something interesting and inventive seeming to bounce in and out of the riffs and sounds. Also, Ken’s vocals have not mellowed one bit. He still goes from the low thrashy growl to clean singing (not in a metalcore kind of way, remember this is 1991), and he still makes full use of the black metal style high-pitched shrieks. The big difference is, as stated above, he seems more in control of his style, and more thoughtful about what style to use where. Also, his lyrics have completely evolved from the typical thrash topics of the first album to the critical, almost self-analytical lyrics we find now. They’re introspective, thoughtful, and almost philosophical at times. The biggest change, though, is that after the last album Anacrusis changed drummers, with the new drummer being Chad Smith. His impact is immediately known as his drum patterns, technique, and inventive use of fills is beyond what most drummers could only dream of (listen to “Idle Hours” for an example). With that said, he still remains within the thrash realm of drumming, not trying to throw jazz or funk or anything like that into the mix; which is a good thing, not a bad thing for this album.
Understandably, a large improvement from one album to the next still does not mean that the album is a classic in the grand scheme of things, but this one really is. The songwriting itself is great, with all the riffs being memorable despite how technical they may become at times. Also, the choruses aren’t just there as an afterthought, they are catchy and well written, but without becoming poppy. In fact, some of the more technical parts of the album come when the chorus to a song is being played, creating a counter-point between the memorable chorus and the more technical music. Each song is also suitably different enough from another one to make the album not feel as if it’s dragging on in some sort of forced feeling of deja vu. When listening to any song it is easy to tell that a lot of thought went in to every detail and it shows, and with enough time given to the album it begins to become easier to follow and then one day the realization that this truly is a classic album will hit you, but be warned, it takes time.
Overall, if there is an Anacrusis
album I’d recommend for the uninitiated it would be this one or their final one called Scream and Whispers
(with Screams and Whispers
being slightly more accessible). One of the only problems I could see someone having with this album, is that it does sound a little dated at times due to their prominent thrash roots, but if you actually like thrash then it shouldn’t make a difference because it really is a classic in the genre. Fortunately, I can recommend this album (all their albums, actually) to anyone that is into heavy music and simply willing to take the time to download the songs, and try something new. What I mean is that their entire catalog is out of print, so the band were cool enough to make all their albums available for free high quality download on their official website. There nothing to sign, nowhere you have to input an e-mail, you just download their songs.
I don’t usually do song recommendations, but as these are available for download legally, I’ll make a few. Lastly, it mentions you need one of two specific MP3 players to play the songs; it’s not true, any will work.