Monday 18 March 2019

Acid Death - Primal Energies (2019)

Country: Greece
Style: Death Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 15 Mar 2019
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While one of my goals when setting up Apocalypse Later Music Reviews was to explore the international nature of rock and metal nowadays, I have to say that I wasn't expecting Greece to stand out from the crowd as a hotbed of interesting material, but it's starting to do that. This is my fourth album from a Greek band in three months, but the first from a band who have a back catalogue.

This is Acid Death's fifth album, though two of those were released before their split in 2001 and two after they reformed in 2012. I believe that the line-up remains consistent from their last album, Hall of Mirrors, and two of the band members were there at the very beginning back in 1989.

It felt good from the very beginning but it was the saxophone solo that I'd hardly expected in the middle of a death metal song that really sold me. It elevates My Bloody Crown, which was already notable because of the bookends. I like the female voice at the beginning and end and the Tuvan throat drone is well placed too, even if it might seem unlikely.

Acid Death bill themselves as prog/tech death metal nowadays, which is fair because they're very capable musicians who don't seem interested in playing the same ol' same ol'. However, many people call them death/thrash and that rings very true on the second track, Inner Demons. They up the speed quite a lot, without losing any of their technical flair, and the vocals are harsh but no further into growling territory than some thrash bands have done for years.

The most obvious influence I heard was Celtic Frost, which is overt from the opening track even if it didn't slap me in the face until The Rope, another four tracks into the album. Part of it's the vocal style of Savvas Betinis, which occasionally, like on The Rope, sounds reminiscent of Tom G. Warrior, but part of it is the way that the guitar shifts into a bouncy repetitive riff approach. Fire of the Insane follows suit and then I just went back to the beginning, started the album again and heard it everywhere.

I should add that Acid Death are far from a Celtic Frost clone. They play faster for a start and far more into death metal territory. While there are progressive tendencies here, they're far less experimental than Frost tend to be, even with a throat singer and a saxophone on My Bloody Crown and the rave-style electronic siren behind the opening of Fire of the Insane.

Almost everything I want to say here is positive, because Primal Energies runs a fast, engaging and surprisingly short 51 minutes. It's a lush and oddly tactile album, like listening to it feels like a trek through a deep jungle of music. The vocals and guitars dominate, with solid backing from drummer Kostas Alexakis, but there are other sounds hanging from the trees waiting for us to walk past: keyboards here, layered vocals there, , buried piano on H.U.M.A.N., even an intriguing zither-like texture in the middle of Reality and Fear and again at the end that feels like a glimpse of the sun far above us.

I've listened to this album three or four times today, while recuperating from a root canal and it made me forget the pain. I'll be returning to it tomorrow, even with this review done, because I simply don't feel that I've got to know it well enough yet. There's a lot here to discover and I think I've only scratched the surface thus far.

Now, as to emphasise the quality of the scene in Greece, I see that Acid Death will be performing a presentation show at the Crow in Athens on 6th April with Voidnaut in support. One day I'll visit Athens, because I very much want to see my grandfather's grave there, but it won't be that soon. Enjoy that gig for me!

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