Anacrusis is a band that if brought up in the right circles will be met with a level of excitement almost unmatched in the metal community. They are a band who ignored specific genre cliches and expectations, who behaved sincerely in every aspect of not only their musicality but their business decisions, and wrote music that connected on a level that would forever entwine them intimately with their fans. Now, they are also a band who invented venues for shows, initially tuned their guitars much lower than those guitars were built for, and definitely used sounds of crushing eggs on their demo, but you’ll have to listen to the raw audio of the interview for those gems. The point is, Anacrusis is a band who let nothing stand in the way of creating the art they wanted to exist in the world. Not circumstance, region, or lack of marketing would stop this band from releasing some of metal’s most secret masterpieces. The story of Anacrusis is one that goes beyond the men who created the music and includes and fully envelopes anyone who was lucky enough to find them.
For our purposes the story picks up in the basement of vocalist and guitarist Kenn Nardi where they allowed us to peek behind the curtain and watch their rehearsal for the upcoming live performance at Delmar Hall in St. Louis on December 7th. This performance is to celebrate the official Metalblade Records reissues of their catalog. However, we will get back to Damnation being the fly on the wall of Anacrusis delivering an onslaught of thinking man’s thrash classics soon enough. First, we need to dig into the brains of these men and find out what created this rare sound and experience that is Anacrusis. Initially the band described their sound as the central point of a Venn diagram of mixed influences including new wave, metal, and punk to name a few. It became quickly evident that the band also built themselves on a strong foundation of true creativity and sincerity. Just as they allowed themselves to bring non-metal influences to the table they didn’t let themselves be barred by the any restrictions or expectations in any capacity. This concept is exemplified in the band lyrically. Bassist John Emery recalls an early conversation discussing the lyrical approach of the band, “write what you know about, which is yourself”. Nardi further explained the reasoning behind this, “I think it’s important to keep things personal but universal”. This poetic approach to lyrical themes created a connection with fans on a personal and significantly deep level. “When I meet an Anacrusis fan I feel like it’s someone I know, like they’re a friend of mine” says Nardi. Anacrusis would continue to facilitate this connection in every way they possibly could, taking the time to talk to and learn fan’s names or by hand writing responses to every piece of fan mail they ever received.
With this deep connection it’s hard to see why Anacrusis isn’t held up in larger circles as one of the most important metal bands to come out of the thrash scene. In some ways it could be argued that their ability to think outside the box musically was a hinderance to their marketability from the labels perspective. Nardi eludes to this idea when recalling a statement shared with him about the struggles with the label “one of the problems with the label was they were looking for the next Death Angel but you guys were the first Anacrusis”. The band does not in any way come off as bitter however. A recurring theme during the conversation was how grateful they were to be able to get as far as they did. Whether it was opening for Megadeth, being shocked by the acceptance of D.R.I fans, or the passionate support of fans during their European run with Death (a tour at which Chuck from Death allowed them to do encores as an opener, which is unheard of). Although the band admittedly recognizes their gratefulness may have led to a level of timidity that wasn’t always helpful to their growth, they address the fact that they still put all that they could into everything they did. Guitarist Kevin Heidbreder states this very bluntly, “I really do not believe in my heart that we actually left anything on the table”. To me it seems that the energy that could have been used to metaphorically push their chests out and demand what they rightly deserved was put into creating art and genuine connections with the listeners. It really is no wonder that people are traveling from around the world to be at the show at Delmar Hall even 26 years after their last album.
Now, as promised, let’s move from the interview section back into the rehearsal space. Anacrusis had multiple incarnations that are very clearly defined with each change of drummer. At their upcoming show they will be playing three sets and using each of these drummers to represent each era of the band. Unfortunately we did not get to see Mike Owens, the original and thrashiest of the drummers rehearse. We did however start with experiencing the Manic Impressions era with drummer Chad Smith who brought a new level of thought provoking technicality to the band in this era. There is truly something about seeing this band play live that cannot be overstated. I would pay double the price of admission of the Delmar Hall show just to watch Chad Smith play “Idle Hours” again or watch Kenn and Kevin weave through the dissonance and odd times of “Explained Away”. Watching these two play guitarist play side by side is indicative of the band as a whole. Both guitarists are stylistically in opposition when it comes to their technical approach but in that tension a momentum is built that moves the songs in the same direction. We then got to watch the Screams and Whispers era with Paul Miles drumming. Miles is an absolute powerhouse whose intensity is everything you want in a metal drummer. All of this matched with the unpredictably chordal and hauntingly dissonant basslines of John Emery makes the band sound unreal. Anacrusis somehow creates a live sound that beckons a level of chaos, captures it, controls it, and thrusts it forward with an intelligently intense precision (don’t let that wordy description scare you, it’s still very moshable for all the thrash fanatics who want to run in circles). When Anacrusis brings these songs to the stage at Delmar Hall on December 7th it is going to be something special that I cannot imagine any real metal fan would miss.
Anacrusis is a band that goes beyond thrashing riffs, melodic hooks, and even beyond each individual band member. Yet, each member fits a very specific role musically and mentally that when working toward the same goal creates this rare experience that is undeniably genuine. This genuinely is what makes the band such an open book to the fans. What is so special about Anacrusis is there is truly no distinction between the artist and the listener. As far as I can see everyone that stands in Delmar Hall on December 7th is Anacrusis.
For the diehards out there we have the full raw audio 90 minute conversation with Anacrusis below but for those who just use the internet to find pictures of cats, here’s maybe the friendliest cat of all time showing off the beautiful MetalBlade Records reissues of Manic Impressions and Screams and Whispers
By: Sean Cantor