Acrid is a Dutch melodic death metal band that dropped its first album in 1999 after forming in 1994. The band still features three original members and they hail from The Hague in the Netherlands. Acrid plays tight, noodly death metal with a strong Gothenburgian timbre. And they do it remarkably well. From the opening strains of the album—title-track “Wonderland”—listeners are regaled with techy (note-y?) riffs on top of grindy bridges and hooky choruses. Vocalist Kaj Turfanda has a delivery that’s kind of like a cross between Chris Reifert from Autopsy and Trevor Phipps from Unearth as he spits his growls and screams over the band’s tight tracks. Wonderland is produced in a way that features the hefty bass and drums in the mix. This helps to set the tone by pummeling listeners and it keeps the record rolling along at a rollicking pace.
Wonderland is notable for its lightning-fast pace. It’s one of the few records I’ve received this years that doesn’t feature songs that are much longer than three minutes. In metal, things have a tendency to bloat, but even at 13 tracks, Wonderland tops out at 41 minutes. This works perfectly, as these Dutch metallers swoop in, punch the listener squarely in the jaw and are gone before you can get up and dust yourself off. Wonderland features sounds you’re familiar with, but they are dynamic enough to be keep you on your feet. “Deception’s Masquerade,” for example, starts with a blast and scream that are worthy of fjords and the icy cold. “Unsurpassed,” on the other hand, features a cool variation on the At the Gates Björriff before dropping into a thrashy groove. Acrid evokes the analogy of a boxer for me: float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The band shows a remarkable alacrity with songs that work their way through groove, thrash, grindy bridges that really remind me of Vomitory or even Maiden-y guitar solos. These tracks are dextrous, catchy and fun.
I have one critique and one concern, however. First, the drums are just a tad high in the mix and it can sometimes undercut the attack or details of outstanding guitar work from Mark Pilk and Claus Toet.1 The second is that at times Kaj can get a bit “metalcore-y,” and I fear that fans of melodeath are going to write this off without giving it a chance. This would be a mistake. As with other bands (like Trials), I don’t think this undermines these guys’ death metal cred—as they don’t do breakdowns or self-indulgent mid-song talking parts and Kaj moves through a variety of deathly styles—but some of these growls and screams do give off that New England Metalcore vibe at times. These very slight caveats aside, though, this is one of the best straight melodic death metal records I heard in 2018. It’s got groove, it’s got riffs, and it’s self-released so it’s got all the underground metal cred you can eat.
Songs to Check: Well, here’s a stream. Try any of them, really! But “Concrete Vermin,” “Deception’s Masquerade” and “Crushing the Negative” are all tracks I loved. Also, kudos on the artwork.