The Bay Area long has given much to the metal scene. That statement can stand on its own without any real explanation, because anyone visiting this site likely is rattling off band names in their heads as they read this.
But we’ll go ahead and be specific anyway. You had the ’80s thrash bands Metallica, Exodus, Possessed, Death Angel, Testament, Vio-Lence, Forbidden and a ton of others. Their legacies speak for themselves, I’m sure, and most of those bands are still active and still contributing relevant music to a scene they helped spawn. More recently, the Bay Area has been the breeding ground for brainier bands with wide-sweeping influences, from black metal warriors Ludicra, Necrite and one-man project Palace of Worms; progressive death band Saros; prog tale-weavers Hammers of Misfortune; practically unclassifiable Grayceon, led by Jackie Perez Gratz, whose cello work has made her a hired gun in the industry; nautical post-metal powerhouse Giant Squid, and I could go on and on for paragraphs and still miss a ton of vital contributors to the scene.
Two other bands that hail from the Bay Area are just beginning to make their marks, and both groups’ ranks share almost the same members. Old-school death metal patrons Vastum just released their debut six-track effort “Carnal Law” via the always reliable 20 Buck Spin, while Acephalix have their sophomore crust-punk-flavored death album “Interminable Night” rereleased in limited quantity via Southern Lord. Both efforts eschew any effort to come across as well buffed, polished around the edges, or aesthetically pleasing for anyone unaware or uninterested in the filth they pour forth, yet for those who like their metal ugly and honest, you can’t go wrong with either record. It also should be pointed out three members of Acephalix constitute Vastum’s lineup, but while there are similar ideas on both releases, they sound pretty different from each other.
Vastum, while a true servant to death’s classic days, don’t just regurgitate that era. Instead, they weave more philosophical and intellectual ideas into their music, touching on subjects of sexuality, psychic disfigurement, loss, frustration, pain, pleasure, what have you. But they don’t go all Chris Barnes with the stuff, so you never feel red faced listening to the songs. Instead, as their bio so helpfully points out, they tackle views more in line with scholars such as French philosopher Georges Bataille (who founded a human sacrifice-related secret society called Acéphale, in case you were wondering where Acephalix got their name) and psychoanalyst Jean Laplanche (known for his work on psychosexual development and Freud’s seduction theory). Right now I don’t have access to the lyric sheet, so I can’t really go any deeper into the content, but once my physical copy arrives I’ll dig right into this. But musically we can go further, and it has that satisfying disgusting bend the early death metal did, which makes this so sonically giving. There’s some great guitar work here (no doubt having Saros’ Leila Abdul-Rauf on board helped), namely mind-blowing lead play and soloing, and even someone like me who hates air guitar sometimes has to hold back from acting out. Abdul-Rauf and vocalist Dan (write that name down in case you forget it) trade vocal duties, with Dan digging deeper into more guttural expression, while Abdul-Rauf leaning more toward penetrating shrieking and screaming (she adds a cool new dimension to “Umbra Interna” that makes that song really stand out). The EP runs about 30 minutes and serves as a nice appetizer to whatever they do next. I’m really amped to hear a full-length from this band.
For more on Vastum, go here: http://www.myspace.com/vastum
To buy “Carnal Law,” go here: http://www.phantomcityrecords.net/store/product_info.php?products_id=861
For more on the label, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/
Acephalix are even dirtier and grimier. They started off more as aggressive punk/hardcore but have eventually added more crusty death metal flow into their mix. All of those elements come together to make for one bulldozing album, a seven-track collection that runs fairly short at 25:30 but certainly gets the best out of every second. The vocals (by Dan!) are growly and throaty, making one wonder if the man has stock in a lozenge company, and the guitar work is thick, riffy and punishing.
They get off to a thunderous start on opener “Christhole,” which is mostly notable for its scintillating lead guitar work. “Daemonic Sign” has strains of classic D-beat mashing, practically ensuring you a facial injury at their show; “Rebirth Into Perversion” lets the hardcore roots show, especially during its thick intro, before blasting into a punk-infused display of power; and the closing title cut features some filthy twin guitar interplay, and a hammer-smashing pace that eventually takes a slow-driving doomy exit into oblivion. “Interminable Night” is a more precise, more calculated record than its full-length predecessor “Aporia,” and with Southern Lord behind them (they’re only printing 2,000, so jump on this), their profile should only go up, especially being cataloged alongside label mates and likewise acts such as Nails, The Secret, and Summon the Crows.
For more on Acephalix, go here: http://www.acephalix.com/
To buy “Interminable Night,” go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php
To buy the album with a T-shirt, go here: http://www.bluecollardistro.com/southernlord/categories.php?cPath=956
For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/
If I had to choose between the two efforts, I’d go for Vastum. It’s more my thing, and any album featuring Abdul-Rauf on guitar and/or vocals, I’m likely to want to dig right into it. But that’s just me, and Acephalix certainly is an awesome, intimidating band that’ll probably find more favor with those who cut their teeth on Swedish hardcore and punk. Whichever way you go, you’re bound to be blown away. And considering these two bands are really just beginning to blaze their respective (yet intermingled) paths, there should only be more fury and bloodshed in both of their futures.