Label: Metal Blade
I get sad when bands don’t get their just due. I get sadder when I find out about that band after they had disbanded. One fateful night in 1993, I was watching MTV’s Headbangers Ball and caught a video of “Sound the Alarm” by St. Louis, Missouri’s progressive thrashers, Anacrusis. From what I’ve read online, “Sound the Alarm” was played once and only once on that show, and it was after the band had called it quits earlier that year. I was fortunate enough to be floored by that song. So much so that I bought their last album, Screams and Whispers, with my birthday money just a scant few weeks later, and it would introduce me to the world of underground metal music like no other band could do before.
But first, “Sound the Alarm”. Go watch the video, or more importantly, listen to the damn song. Flanged and delayed arpeggios give way to a satisfying crunch. John Emery’s VoiVodian bass tone, Paul Miles’ tricky drumming, and Kenn Nardi’s anguished vocals that would go from throaty bellowing to anguished singing to near-black-metal screeching… folks, this was what I was looking for at the age of 17. Something angry. Something unique. Something sincere. And Screams and Whispers had it in droves.
And talk about an expansive musical palette! You have glimpses of atonality (“Division”), Pantera-esque swagger (the chorus of “Grateful”), sweeping beautiful melodies instilling a false sense of security (“Driven”, “Brotherhood?”), thoughtful lyrics (all of them!), and there’s never a dull moment to be found. Nardi and co-guitarist Kevin Heidbreder were masters of their instruments. While Nardi’s leads tend to be harsh and angular, Kevin’s were more fluid, almost to the point of being watery (his lead on “Driven” is a key example). One thing I remember about the album’s release was that Kenn would be panned hard on the left channel, and Kevin would be panned on the right, so those with headphones or good stereo systems could pick up who was playing what lead. As a teenager, I thought this was a very cool idea… unless you blow a speaker or broke a headphone cable.
The most amazing thing about Screams and Whispers, though, is how fresh and current it still sounds a whole 21 years later. I’ve played this album for friends over the years, and many have said that “Metallica wished they sounded this good”! This was an album written by artists who wanted to leave a stamp on the metal scene, and this was one hell of a way to leave the stage, and it’s still the litmus test that I hold other bands up to in terms of quality and the ability to age gracefully.
Anacrusis would reunite in 2009 to play a handful of festivals and re-record some older material, titled Hindsight: Suffering Hour & Reason Revisited, before an indefinite hiatus in 2013. Screams and Whispers is a difficult album to track down in terms of a physical copy (I owned three at one point), though Nardi has made it very easy by making it (and all their prior records) available via download on their official website for free, as a means of keeping their legacy alive. And as someone who was exposed to various new genres via Screams and Whispers, I would gladly show anyone who is interested in this timeless gateway, my gateway, to check out this absolute classic of an album.