Acephalix: Deathless Master

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Acephalix: Deathless Master
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Acephalix: Deathless Master
Crust Punk, Death Metal
Southern Lord Records
April 10th, 2012
Release length: 30:52
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Acephalix return once more through the great Southern Lord Records for another thirty minutes of crushing Death Metal violence. For their second full-length, the follow-up to Aporia and not their Interminable Night compilation released last year, the group definitely leaves behind much of the Crust influence, focusing more on a straight forward Death soaked effort. But, does this Californian act have what it takes to make this assault really stand out from the rest?

One thing that definitely works in their favor is the rawer production sound that often helps to create an unnerving and crushingly dark atmosphere. Deathless Master leaves you seeing the bleakest shades of gray, no matter how much influence one style has over the other. The guitars sound pretty heavy, often catering to the groovier Swedish Death Metal approach than anything with a mid-range distortion that does come off brutal, but has plenty of help from the rather loud bass guitar that makes its presence not just known, but felt through deeper chords that greatly support the other strings. The drums sound thick and carry a nice echo all around, though largely in the snares. There is a distant cowbell as well, but often masked by the rest of the rich and vibrant snares that pierce through the riffs as intimidatingly as the click of the bass kick, though that ends up being a bit lower in the mix. The cymbals don’t really end up sounding too special, but are clear enough to fill the music, but whether in a good or bad manner greatly varies. The vocals are your traditional guttural approach, again finding a heavy echo effect that makes them a little more intense, as well as hard to understand for most of the release thanks to the audio quality, though additional range into somewhat higher rasp territory does help break things up a bit.

While Deathless Master sounds good and atmospheric, many songs just don’t carry that much of a bite to them. “On Wings…” really relies on the cymbals in a very basic manner to try to fill the material, and it just overpowers everything else due to their volume, causing their simplicity to greatly dull its edge to the point where it just becomes boring. “Tomb of the Fathers” also has this problem, but the music itself is still pretty enjoyable for what it is, not quite relying as heavily on the cymbals to push it along. Aside that the bass can sometimes get to be a bit too much, as is the case with “Deathless Master.” Due to it’s increased speed, the twanging bass actually gets really old very quick, and ends up greatly damaging the track in the end. The vocals largely lack definition here as well, making the lyrics harder to understand here than on other songs, but the chorus is simply infectious, utilizing the additional distant cowbell to the group’s advantage in a subtle manner.

“Bastard Self” does open things up on a better note. The guitars and bass really usher in a crushing experience with some lead chords that can amp up the intensity a bit. The bass is tuned down to the point where, while still creating a deep presence, much of the time it has that twanging sound like bones rattling around. “Blood of Desire” carries the same kind of concept, a slower and punishing groove-filled offering that hammers away with a catchy foundation throughout, and one hell of an impressive guitar solo near the three minute mark. The deeper gutterals work perfectly and don’t seem to go too far with range one way or the other. “The Hunger” also has this more traditional presence, but lasts a solid six plus minutes. The entire performance maintains plenty of shifts in the music to keep the listener attentive, largely focusing on a mid-tempo brutality with some solid catchy material from start to finish. The cymbals do end up pushed a bit further here, but never to the point that they end up hurting the final product like “On Wings…” does. In the end it isn’t as memorable as some of the others, but it definitely shows the potential and dexterity that Acephalix does possess.

Deathless Master isn’t exactly the most awe-inspiring example of what America can do when influenced by Swedish Death Metal acts like Bloodbath and Dismember, but it’s far from a bad one. Acephalix presents a crushing and brutal atmospheric recording, but it does drop the ball here and there due to the audio quality affecting the cymbal presence (and in some cases domination), as well as the insane twanging of the bass and how bad it can get when things pick up. If you enjoy this kind of Metal, then there’s no reason to not at least sample this through an on-line MP3 store, or off a friend if he or she has a copy. You will be let down, however, if you go into this release expacting something like Interminable Night, as the experience, as well as the performance and quality, are just in no way the same.

01. Bastard Self – 3:06
02. Deathless Master – 3:12
03. Tomb of Our Fathers – 3:16
04. On Wings… – 3:55
05. Raw Life – 4:21
06. Blood of Desire – 3:17
07. In Arms of Nothing – 3:40
08. The Hunger – 6:05
Overall Score: 6.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Southern Lord Records via Earsplit PR.