Death brawlers Acephalix look at empty heavens and laugh on devastating ‘Theothanatology’

Photo by Adam Houmam

I live in equal parts amusement and abject fury over people who have decided god, the Christian one, is some sort of tool for mocking people in protected statuses, LGBTQ folks, immigrants, and anyone whose lifestyles aren’t compatible with theirs. It’s almost like they don’t even understand the faith they hijacked. Provided this god is even real, what if he or she or it died? Gone. Never to be seen or heard from ever again.

“Theothanatology” is the idea or belief that god is dead, and it happens to be the name of the new record from Acephalix, their fourth and first in five years. The band’s brand of spiraling, psychologically scarring death metal remains intact, and they use these eight songs to explore this idea that a celestial god figure did exist and now no longer does. It’s a terrifying idea whether or not you’re a believer in such a thing, and the band—vocalist Daniel Butler, guitarists Adam Camara and Adam Walker, bassist Erika Osterhout, drummer David Benson—plasters these tracks with sinister dread and a spirit that feels like it’s eating into your mind and reminding you that everything you thought was possible has changed forever in as unsettling a manner possible.

“Theothanatologist” is a punishing opener that begins with an ominous preacher quote before it’s on to blistering death, Butler wailing, “Theo… thano… tologistic might,” over the bruising chorus. Guitars heat up as the intensity remains beastly, the growls mar, the playing hits back, and the detached speaking works like a ghost into your brain. “Godheads” has a savage pace and a mix of growls and shrieks, Butler howling, “Godheads, invading Godheads, enslaving Godheads, gripping us tight.” The pace continues to flatten as the band thrashes violently, and everything ends as a warped mess. “Abyssal” lets the bass drive the first mile before the guitars take a spiraling dive, strange speaking sending chills down your spine. The guitar work stretches out and creates a balmy atmosphere, and the heat continues to rise before fading. “Postmortem Punishment” is utterly morbid, crunching bones and plodding as you’re dealt severe punishment. The growls deface as a meaty pace digs into your psyche, the drumming steamrolls, and the final blows leave burn marks all over your body.

“Innards of Divinity” manages to find a way to get even darker, the growling/speaking mix again working its moribund magic. “Blanketed with blood, born amidst as crud, this God eclipsing light, this warmth of sacrifice,” Butler snarls as the guitars grind into a mush, and the pace snakes and destroys, leaving its victims convulsing. “Pristine Scum” dawns amid warmer leads before things get blunt and bloody, the punishment lathering with filth. “Godless believers, they run toward blighted, vacant heavens, disillusioned and squandering life, mania as religion,” Butler stabs, a sobering and accurate portrayal of much of American society as spacey hell opens its jaws, and the guitars glimmer before fading. “Defecated Spirit” brings riffs that threaten and thickening shadows as the growls creep up your back. Twisted madness challenges your mental well-being as the tempo blisters hard, and the final blows of thrashing easily hit their marks. Closer “Atheonomist” delivers thawing riffs and breathy calls before we land in a very deliberate hell. “Atheonomous brute, the law is death, atheonomous brute, acephalic,” Butler howls as the pressure pushes into a sound pocket that aims to swallow you whole, only to be undone by one final push that drives nails into your skull.

In a land where religion once again has been weaponized and used to beat people down, would it be the biggest shock in the world if a god worth any merit would hurl him or herself into the void? “Theothanatology” is the confrontational, devastating documents we’ve come to expect from Acephalix, but as we creep deeper into the point of no return, there perhaps never has been a more vital time for their music. This is a record that will dig deep into your psyche and recalibrate all the mental wounds you’ve suffered at the hands of religion and help you fight back with proper amounts of spite and scorn.

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