You would imagine it hard to be thrown off kilter and truly surprised within the broad landscape of metal nowadays, even in the avant-garde and experimental realms which blossom and scintillate from the unique creative minds of bands like Trepalium, 6:33, Pryapisme, and Hardcore Anal Hydrogen to name a few. One band which has and continues to through new album Fearless is Mexican death metallers Acrania. The release is a psychotic fusion of extreme metal and lyrical confrontation with virulent Latin rhythms, celebratory melodic revelry, and schizophrenic imagination. You could call it death jazz or funk core to make up tags, we call it one of the most exhilarating encounters you will hear this year.
Mexico City based Acrania began in 2006, taking their time to unite and hone their blend of Latin Jazz and Metal before releasing their first encounter, the In Peaceful Chaos EP the following year. Three years later debut album Unbreakable Fury was unleashed, its well-received presence supported by the band playing a mini tour in Germany with the support of The Wacken Foundation. Its 2012 successor stirred up even more attention and acclaim, An Uncertain Collision named Best Album Of The Year in the Kalani Metal Awards. From there Acrania has extensively toured around Mexico and Europe sharing stages with bands such as Diablo Swing Orchestra, Death To All, Exodus, The Agonist, The Faceless, Legion Of The Damned, and Havok along the way. Now Fearless has all the qualities to thrust the quartet into the broadest keenest spotlight, and the presence to inspire listeners to salsa and bomba whilst head banging like a dervish.
Fearless explodes from its first breath through People of the Blaze, the opener a tidal wave of rigorous rhythms aligned to a hypnotic groove. Its air is instantly and furiously busy as a sonic aggression surrounds it all whilst percussion get rowdy and the vocals of rhythms guitarist Luis F. Oropeza growl and squall over the concussive web of sound. Predictability is as absent in the band’s sound and song as dullness, a quick step into a temptation of throaty bass and spicy jazz seducing from Alberto Morales G. and César A. Gallegos respectively, a trigger for hips and feet to heavily flirt with the floor. At the same time a trespass of bruising rhythms and metal bred antagonism becomes the spark to testing neck muscles. It is a fascinating and bewitching incitement which never settles in one form or moment for more than a clutch of body moves before twisting in on itself all over again for a breath-taking maelstrom of addictive flavours and incendiary intent.
The excellent start continues through Poverty Is in the Soul, the beats of drummer J.C. Chavez S. a swift protagonist rifling through ears and stirring up an eager appetite. Its lively start slips into a reflective few seconds before challenging and inviting the listener through a slim but intimidating lead into the relentless fierce shuffle of its body. The sturdiest rhythms throw themselves around like a mosh pit whilst the more traditional percussive tempting just lights ears with exotic persuasion. The scythes of melodic and sonic enterprise from lead guitarist Gallegos equally spark the imagination, especially when they evolve into acidic strands of incitement alongside the same musician’s sax exploits.
Undoubtedly Fearless is a proposition needing numerous plays to explore all of its involved and finely entwined textures and corners, but equally it is an immediately impacting adventure sparking ears and energies as proven again by I Was Never Dead. The track is a bracing and hostile fury, though as much as it is fearsome it is irresistibly tempting as rhythms and sax stir up a hornets nest of lustful responses reinforced by another lively bass line and the spiralling invention of the guitars. The great rabid tones of Oropeza are the least adventurous aspect, his delivery pretty much the same raw assault on every track and for personal tastes and to be fussy lack the desired diversity to match the sounds, though to be honest it has no negative impact on songs at all. The malicious jazz of the song makes way for the funkier caustic escapade of Blinded by Power, it as expected a constant evolution slipping through ravenously aggressive, sublimely beauteous, and melodically charming climes in creating its progressive tango. It is a glorious adventure, a roller coaster of turbulence and melodic radiance before the punkish festivity of Overflow rouses ears and appetite into another seriously wanton greed, after which a respite for the body comes through the brief and evocative instrumental En el Puerto. Its quaint and nostalgic air slips into Hypocritical Conflict, an instant thick embrace of discord and raw intensity which brews and grows into a hellacious swamp of sound and agitation, though in turn that spins into a transfixing blaze of jagged jangly riffs and bass bait. Everything gets fiery and intense again before…well the changes and turns are numerous and a treat for all to find out in another major pinnacle of the album.
Man’s Search for Meaning starts with a hypnotic cacophony of percussive beats and a roaming dark bass line aligned to the potent narrative and tones of Oropeza. From there the song’s every second heads towards another seamlessly aligned and mixed collective of sounds, styles, and ingenuous ideation. As the album, the track is ripe with Latin tradition and flavours bound in a death metal breeding and malevolence, though it has to be said at no time within Fearless is there ever a moment when the suffering and oppression lyrically portrayed is matched by a similarly destructive musical assault.
Fearless is completed by Point of Collision, a final riveting tapestry of deranged imagination and experimentation which just grips ears and pleasure like a mix of System Of A Down meets Cynic meets Pryapisme. It is a final treat to an outstanding release, a triumph for those prepared to be challenged, at times bewildered, and ultimately thrilled. Acrania should definitely be a recognised world-wide presence after this.
The self-released Fearless is out now @ https://acraniaofficial.bandcamp.com/album/fearless