Recommending a deathcore album is a complicated thing these days. I love this genre. It’s been a go-to of mine since those early Despised Icon and Red Chord albums and it goes without saying that 2016 was an immensely fruitful year for the genre. However, some of the branches on that blood-soaked tree are beginning to bow from a volume of bands that I just don’t know how to keep up with anymore.
We all know it: deathcore is bloated. It’s been bloated for a long time and as a result more than a few bands with really solid albums have sadly fallen by the wayside just for myself personally. Fortunately, though, the fruit on that deathcore tree are not all doomed to rot – unloved and forgotten – and although every piece you eventually get to isn’t exceptional, it’s finding those diamonds in the rough that should get all of us excited again.
Here is where we find ourselves with Acranius’ new album, Reign of Terror. Bearing no relation to the similarly named UK band, Acrania, beyond a love for violence and hard-hitting riffs, Acranius have become well-established veterans within the European scene, touring relentlessly since 2009 and putting out two other full lengths in the span of four years.
Now, I bring all this up not only to provide some biographical flavor, but to confess and hopefully show earnestly I’m endorsing this record. I almost never got around to listening to these guys and, quite frankly, I’m a little upset by that. Acranius have put together a solid, solid album here that – regardless of whether it does anything new for the genre – slams with the biggest and baddest of them.
|***For the sake of brevity, I’m going to refer to Reign of Terror as RoT from this point forward.|
Let’s talk brass tacks. On a track to track basis, what’s there to say about RoT that hasn’t been said about the recent releases of their compatriots? What did producer Lasse Lammert do for Acranius’ sound compared to their last efforts? Well, the long and the short of it all is that this is a leaner, more precise work by the band with their twist on the slam formula dialed in and to some degree, distilled into something transportive. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a violence for violence’ sake sort of affair, but there are moments across the album where the usual mix of bar chords and beatdown riffs turn the clock back to a point in time when the roots of deathcore were a little more apparent.
Take “The True Reign” for example, where things get a moment to slow down and ring out a few slow chords before getting into a series of riffs which very well could have been on the new Cannibal Corpse record or on None So Vile. A few of those beautiful roots are showing and whether this is just myself projecting on the art or not remains to be confirmed by the greater fan base, but there’s seems to be a conscious, collective effort on the part of Frommberger, Torlopp, Arndt (guitar, bass, and drums respectively), and Lammert to do what every good deathcore album should: mix up what has become a tried, albeit fatigued formula by adding some nuance. Arndt does a great deal to help achieve this on his own across several of the tracks with some very deliberate rhythm and pacing changes, yet there are times where I wish more was done to save a few songs from sounding a bit same-y on the production side. The same could regrettably be said for Petersen’s vocals at times, which, truth be told, are consistently great and give the songs what’s needed but never any more than that. Songs like “Return to Violence”, “Battle Scars”, and “Died A Liar”, though… these are exactly the sorts of precious stones we search the depths for. Slow, low, bloody, and lying in wait for live performance.
There’s not a lot of room to breathe or much done different on Acranius’ Reign of Terror. But that’s ok. That’s never the intent and it shows through and though. The aggression needs to be set to 11 because for these German deathcore vets, there’s no scenario where doing otherwise makes sense. They’re doing what they’ve mastered and at the end of the day it’s a solid addition to the deathcore cannon. I’m glad we’ve got it. 8/10
Reviewed By: Maximus Prime
Get a load of this track
Acranius– “Died a Liar”- Reign of Terror-