Brutal death metal at its very core should be, well, brutal. Without naming names, there are a plethora of bands out there doing brutal as it should be done. Contrarily, there are bands that try to stick slams, tech and gutturals into a pale imitation of the pioneers of this much maligned genre. Acrania have a sore rear end from sitting on the fence exactly halfway between the two. Their first full length Totalitarian Dystopia has so many slam sections and technical guitar passages that they sacrifice the art of the transition by mainly cutting and pasting these riffs and licks wherever they want. Then there’s the production. That is a matter for a different paragraph however.
The band certainly listen to a lot of death metal. Tremolo riffs, gutturals and pig squeals are abundant. There are more blast beat-chug riff combinations than a year of <insert brutal death metal band name here> shows could provide. Yet there is no real sense of homage involved. It all seems just a bit tired, much like the listener after having to sit down and ingest a full 36 minutes of this. The reasonably short run time of Totalitarian Dystopia is made arduous by a mechanical attempt at creating death metal epics. Songs like ‘A Gluttonous Abomination’ and ‘Festering With Dishonesty’ have drawn out breakdowns which, much like the cover arts grossly overweight abomination, take up space when they are not welcome – much like that guy on the train who seats himself next to a stranger when there are clearly spare seats to be used. Awkward, annoying and almost offensive.
Taking the foot off the gas, it is not all bad. Taken on their own, ‘Lobotomize, Dehumanize, Negate’ and the title track could be welcome guests on a metal compilation. But that is about it. Some melo-death riffing and some unexpected tempo changes do not a classic make. Rarely do the band threaten to really show any ingenuity. While compotent and clearly talented, there are no moments that make one stand up, slam down their copy of 1984 and shout “Raaaargh” while windmilling in the direction of the nearest Government building.
Now, onto the production. Look up totalitarian in a thesaurus and the most fitting synonym would have to be oppressive. There is simply no room for any of the performances to stand their own ground. The few lead sections are simply far too shrill or bogged down and lost behind the rhythm guitars while the drums might as well be lifted straight from <insert modern deathcore record title here>. The biggest surprise of the whole record is that during BLAH, the bass is audible. For three and a half seconds. While these types of bands are not notorious for their stellar production, Acrania are a band playing a mixture of old and new school death metal with a modern production aspect that just flattens any mood or atmoshphere (yep, that is now a thing).
Acrania do not pull any punches here. Unfortunately, there aren’t many thrown either. Totalitarian Dystopia is not an example of how modern death metal should be done. While not the worst thing released this year, it is definitely lacking the substance required for multiple listens. Come to think of it, there isn’t much style here either. Hate mosh in the comments below and stick it to the man.
Acrania’s Totalitarian Dystopia gets..