Review Summary: Anacrusis' vocalist returns from a 20-year hiatus with a double album that includes everything from the technical thrash of his past to moody, atmospheric songs that are surprisingly full of emotion.
If you’re reading this, chances are you already know how this album came into existence, but just in case…. Kenn Nardi was the vocalist/guitarist for technical thrash band Anacrusis
. They were active from 1986 through 1994 and released four influential albums. After they broke up, the individual members faded back into everyday life. Eventually, though, Anacrusis reappeared on the scene. The beginning was minor – Kenn created a website dedicated to the band and made all of their albums available for free download. This was followed by Kenn’s Cruel April
project in 2006. Again, it was a minor step forward since it was entirely DIY and was only ever posted on the Anacrusis website. The most significant part of that release was that it was originally intended to include Anacrusis bassist John Emery. To the highly optimistic, this meant that at least two members were talking and still interested in music – this optimism was eventually rewarded.
Unexpectedly, Anacrusis reformed and there was a flurry of activity, which included tours, DVDs, re-recordings and even talks of new music. This talk eventually led to the first new Anacrusis song in over two decades, ‘This Killer in My House’, but as quickly as it started it was over. The band went back on hiatus and there was no mention of the untitled album’s fate – but as quickly as it was over it was reborn. A few weeks after the breakup, Kenn announced that the music would still see the light of day and that he would be handling everything on his own. The end result is the release of over two decades worth of material – the aptly titled Dancing With the Past
. Stylistically, there are thrashy tracks that seem to pull directly from Reason
and Manic Impressions
, there are classically-influenced tracks that pick up where Screams and Whispers
left off, there are moody tracks that seem to carry a bit of that New Model Army/The Cure influence, there are traditional progressive metal tracks and even a few relatively straight-forward tracks. This array of styles is held down by the diverse range of Kenn Nardi’s vocals that can still go from low growls to clean singing to piercing screams.
The first two tracks, ‘Unnecessary Evil’ and ‘Fragile’, give the listener a pretty good idea of what extreme spectrums the album is going to cover. ‘Unnecessary Evil’ sounds like the bastard child of The Cure’s Disintegration
and Anacrusis’ Screams and Whispers
. There are the technical metal and symphonic elements that dominated Screams and Whispers
but the tempo, atmosphere, tones and emotional angle all scream Disintegration
. The second track, ‘Fragile’, rips the listener right back to the early 90s with one of Kenn’s piercing screams, a breakneck tempo and the kind of calculated riffing that defined Manic Impressions
. That’s one of the great things about this album; each song is going to be a surprise. You never know if the next song will be a thrashy Anacrusis-inspired track such as ‘Await the Setting Sun’ or the New Model Army goes prog of ‘Submerged’ or the surprising emotive ambience of ‘A Little Light’.
What's more is that the previously mentioned styles don't even begin to describe the brooding, moody epics that reside near the end of both discs. These songs include ‘The Dark and the Light’ and ‘The Scarlet Letter’ from the first disc and ‘Symbiotic’ and ‘The Runt’ from the second disc. These songs are generally some of the mellowest on the album and excel at using clean guitars, symphonic elements and melody in order to create atmospheres that allow Kenn to deliver some of his most emotive vocals. In case it isn’t apparent, Dancing With the Past
is going to require a lot of attention and multiple listens in order for all of the songs and nuances to successfully grab the listener. There are those songs such as ‘Ordinary’ and the title track that are fairly instant, but a majority of the album is going to require much more work and attention than anything Anacrusis ever did. Of course, there are definitely those high-speed moments and more than a little bit of heaviness throughout, it's just that there’s also a ton of subtlety and much more melody than fans might be expecting.
Dancing With the Past
finds Kenn Nardi taking the Anacrusis foundation – that solid bass tone, creative double-bass filled percussion and a technical progressive edge – and pushing it through a multitude of different styles. These styles run the gamut from Disintegration
-inspired moodiness and atmosphere to aggressive technical thrash that wouldn’t sound out of place on Reason
or Manic Impressions
. In between these extremes are a collection of songs that, despite two decades in the making, sound remarkably cohesive thanks to that solid Anacrusis foundation and the diverse vocals of Kenn Nardi. Of course, fans shouldn’t expect Kenn Nardi’s first solo album to blindly follow the Anacrusis blueprint, because this is much more than just an Anacrusis release under a different name. In fact, Dancing With the Past
would have probably never worked if it had been labeled as an Anacrusis release. It has been a long time coming, but Kenn Nardi has managed to release a double album without any real filler that is ambitious in scope and shouldn’t fail to satisfy old and new fans alike.