coverIt’s all too common for bands to struggle with their identity as they try and fail at combining varied influences into something they can call their own. Given how conservative the metal scene tends to be, copycat acts and blazing shoulder-patches dominate the underground, either playing it safe by aping their heroes or drafting stylistic ransom notes from so many cut-and-pasted previous works. Well, nihil sub sole novum be damned—Acrania will have no part in this. These Mexican metalheads have snuck past our star’s watchful eye and drawn for themselves the most spatio-temporally vast watershed extreme metal has ever seen—and it’s been storming in the mountains.

A sumptuous turducken of all that is good, Fearless is not just an album but a deluge of the last century of popular music in the new world, spreading out as far as Rio De Janiero, Miami, Montreal and San Fransisco. Acrania are far beyond fusion, brewing up a focused, voltaic liquor of progressive and entirely human songs that cover more ground than a monsoon and with twice the fury. They’re scrappy enough to pull all of this genre-bending off with barely a lick of pretense but serious enough to follow through with their ideas, blending relentless polyrhythmic percussion with adventurous riffing and a liberal use of wind instruments towards an end like no other.

Simply put, Fearless is a tour de force of nearly everything I love in music. It has the intensity and intelligence of Death and Cynic, the rhythmic tomfoolery of Meshuggah, the adventurousness of The Mars Volta, incisive lyrics of Gaza or Gojira, and heaps of Latin flavor that I grew up playing in so many school jazz bands. It’s so fresh it makes Genghis Tron look like Bloodbath and so fun it makes Revocation look like the National Society of Accountants.

Take for instance “Hypocritical Conflict.” Drawn in by wailing winds and indecipherable drumming, it immediately switches gears into catchy grind-thrash riffing with big-band horn hits before a samba bassline ushers in its next movement. More of this stop-and-go madness, along with some of the album’s most brilliant dynamic contrast can be found in the bridge of “Poverty Is in the Soul,” whose anti-capitalist lyrics get shouted out with passion and a Beardfish-ian disregard for syllable count. “I Was Never Dead” flies through four minutes on a wave of Santeria drumming, d-beats and even a brief foray into foxtrot. The rapid rhythmic turnover and at times unconventional song structures make for a taxing listen on paper, but instead absolutely invigorate due to the band’s energy and clever use of repetition. Not once across the album’s 38 minutes do the band glimpse at their navels or stare at their reflection, muddied as they are by the uncontrollable flood of their own creativity.

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Every moment of Fearless brings in a new tone, a new rhythm, or a new feeling, yet it feels remarkably cohesive in part due to its brevity, but also because each song paints from the same palette. “People of the Blaze” establishes the album’s personality in just the first few seconds after the yell of “Un, dos, tres, qua!” and not a moment fails to live up to it. Produced by Acrania‘s drummer J.C. Chavez and guitarist/vocalist Luis Oropeza and mastered by Brett Caldas-Lima, Fearless sounds loose and live, bucking yet another trend as it waves a gigantic middle finger at modern over-production. The album’s density is achieved by rhythm and tone rather than loudness, which allows huge amounts of dynamic contrast. Don’t let the DR score of 5ish turn you away: Fearless sounds far less brickwalled than its contemporaries, and I’d compare its mastering favorably with that of Origin‘s Omnipresent.

Fearless is a work of endless ends, each terminus flowing into the infinite confluence of style and genre that soaks anything in its path, frothing out and spilling into every nook and cranny of your little ear canals. From the trumpet’s cheeky plundering of “Tequila” that plays out “People of the Blaze” to the extended take on Victor Frankl’s existentialist philosophy in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” there’s simultaneously nothing beyond Acrania‘s grasp yet nothing beneath their level. No other band in the world sounds like Acrania. Like Fair to Midland or Genghis Tron, their music is so steeped in individuality and character that the very idea of it mesmerizes, its identity so clear and so strong. Fearless not only succeeds in its mixture of genres, its excellent songs, and its scope, but on a much deeper level; it feels whole.

Tracks to check: “Poverty is in the Soul,” “Hypocritical Conflict,” “Man’s Search for Meaning,” and “People of the Blaze”

 

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  • AngelOfDeth

    Hands down this is the weirdest metal thing i have ever heard in my life, and i cant stop headbanging!

    This is awesome, beyond words…

  • Stefunal

    This is… amazing.
    It’s like if Devil Swing Orchestra and Death got a bastard baby which was raised by Akphaezya.

  • Wilhelm

    I remember that time when The Mars Volta and Sepultura were kidnapped by Mexican drug lords and forced to play in a Mariachi band.

  • Reese Burns

    Glad to say I didn’t miss this one when it was fresh out. Been jamming it for a while, and it’s a really solid album.

  • This is surprisingly….not bad! I actually find myself wanting to hear MORE mariachi! The breakdown around 2 minutes is pretty damn cool! I hear a bit of the south american sound that Angra sometimes blends into their music here.

    • Reese Burns

      It works well enough for me to wonder why there aren’t more bands doing this!

      • Kronos

        I know right? This sound is just so fun to listen to, but it has to be hell to write. These guys have serious chops.

        • Reese Burns

          I got a burned copy of one of their CD’s from a friend but haven’t been able to actually find my own copy anywhere. If I look up “Arcania band” there are several pages of results that aren’t them. You wouldn’t happen to have a link to a website or Facebook page of theirs, would you?

  • madhare

    Wow… Not my thing at all, but… Nice to see people trying out new things. I’m always for incorporating local elements into the music instead of trying to keep it sleek, international, and impersonal.

    Wouldn’t play this at home, but I can totally imagine myself sipping beer in a metal bar with this in the background. Would be a nice break from the usual stuff. (Most bars seem to be quite conservative in their music selection.)

    • [not a Dr]

      First time I heard it, I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but was unable to stop listening…
      I think you’re right: as background music it would be awesome.
      It does have a festive vibe to it.

  • This is so much better than I’d expected going in. Just wow.

  • You wot m8?

    Can we just all stop for a second and appreciate how deliciously cool that cover is?

    • Kronos

      Best cover art of last year, I’d say.

      • Reese Burns

        I’d have to disagree, I think the cover from that Bell Witch album from a few months back beats all challengers.

    • That’s Eliran Kantor for you, he really has a gift for visual representation of the music he creates covers for.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Reminds me a little of Gogol Bordello, at least in spirit.

    • John

      I can see the comparison. Saw them a few years back. Definitely not my cup of tea, but I will never think of wearing purple without thinking of them, ever again.

  • groverXIII

    Underrated album, underrated band. All three of their albums are fantastic. Make sure you don’t end up with the shitty deathcore band that’s also named Acrania.

  • SegaGenitals

    On my constant rotation of late.

  • mtlman1990

    Reminds me of Diablo Swing Orchestra.

  • sir_c

    I will have to dial back in later, I’m afraid.
    Today I’m trying to swallow and digest the two big names on “Things That Will Be Missed In 2016”. Sorry, just not in the mood today :’-(

  • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

    Right now I´m listening to “People of the Blaze” and I´d say that this is just the perfect example of what happens when metal meets with “influencias latinas” and everything is executed flawlessly: both sounds maintain their essence and the result is something different.
    Above all, the overall sensation is that when they want to sound powerful they accomplish that and when they want to sound loco, they sound LOCO DE COJONES.

  • This is shit. Its like Sepultura mixed with Puya mixed with Candiria mixed with some wedding salsa band and 311 rehearsing without a care. Ugh. Terrible.

  • Aydn

    This is really interesting, definitely gonna check the whole thing out when i get the chance.

    Speaking of things you guys might’ve missed in 2015, anybody else hear Elder’s album Lore that came out in February? I thought it was incredible. Could’ve just been me though

    • John

      I’m pretty sure it was on Steel Druhm’s year end list. Lore is fantastic. So no you aren’t alone in its appreciation, or in your good taste.

      • Aydn

        I guess i missed it there. I did find Khemmis through that list though, who i now love.

        Thanks for affirming my good taste, you clearly have excellent taste as well!

        • John

          You know what – I just checked his list and it isn’t there. And after further searching, I don’t know where I came up with that. Maybe my own in-my-head list? My apologies. I still validate your taste.

    • Luke_22

      Still absorbing this one and bummed I missed it, because it sounds like a great album and a step-up from their already solid past. I was going to do a TYMHM on it, but probably missed the boat now.

  • JL

    Pretty awful, to be honest, but thanks for offering it.

  • John

    This was actually one of my favorite albums last year. Just…fun. And I am a sucker for the Mars Volta.

  • WhamBamSam

    This was one of the best finds from catching up with last year’s releases with all the year end lists around the web. Great recommendation. Sort of like a more latin-infused version of Atheist for the modern age.

  • Oberon

    This reminds me a lot of Diablo Swing Orchestra, but heavier, more aggressive, and almost as entertaining as Metalachi

  • Diego Molero

    I lived in México for a year (2013) and I was sick with their music, I really hate it and still do, so I wasn’t very exited about this one, but it is in fact really good

  • Alexandros

    I think you mentioned most of my favourite bands in the review, you didn’t even slip Beardfish, so I guess I must listen to this!

  • Mr. Water

    First time I encounterd a death metal band that made me want to dance the Mariachi.

  • San Eutocio

    I’m giving a listen to it. 3rd song so far and it jsut sounds fucking FUNKtastic (;P). It is like listen to Sepultura Roots era with a fusion / prog twist.

  • Irineu Carvalho

    Would that be Death Mex?

  • “Sent by the one, unified wisdom shining. Clearing the path to ascend. The blood speaks to quicken eternal rivers within.”