REVIEW: Acrania – Totalitarian Dystopia [2014]


Artist: Acrania

Album: Totalitarian Dystopia


Filth. Without limit or filter, filth pours forth from their mouths—lies, anger, and aimless accusations—anything to direct the blame away from themselves. Anything to distract the eyes and ears of the people they so valiantly claim to lead. With every slanderous syllable and each writhing, irksome word, their dreamland collapses around them. Every decree shall fail, every law shall break; this is the soundtrack to a New World Order—this is Acrania’s Totalitarian Dystopia. Ever since erupting onto the scene with their Beginning of the End EP, Acrania have been hard at work honing the blade that is their violent, energetic blend of slamming death metal and brutalizing deathcore. The result? An even more politically fueled, violently heavy and slamming release that serves as the soundtrack to complete and total anarchy.

Totalitarian Dystopia is chaos incarnate—from the first crack of the snare to the last crushing chug. Instrumentally, Acrania take elements that were already intelligently composed on Beginning of the End and add creativity and more dynamic, fluid song structure. Drummer Jake Hadley is still among the best when it comes to machine-gun blast beats and mind-melting fills, as even the opening minute of “Hollow” is enough to cause the listener to prolapse, as deep, crushing kick drum and piercing, sharp snare tear through the listener’s flesh like bullets through paper. What’s more is Hadley’s brilliant interplay with guitarist Jack Simmons. Where their dynamic was previously defined as relentlessly heavy chugs and over-the-top thick bass drum, they now flow together much more effectively—the proof is found in the beautiful—yet brutal—harmony found in the opening riff of “Festering with Dishonesty” or the buildup to the climactic, album-defining slam in “Lobotomize, Dehumanize, Negate.” Together, Hadley and Simmons wreak pure instrumental havoc, with Simmons’ lightning-fast tremolo picking and goosebump-inducing pinch harmonics lining up perfectly with Hadley’s mile-a-minute blast beats and skull-splitting fill work.

Acrania, however relentless the instrumentation may be, will never be known first and foremost for masterful musicianship (even if it is certainly present). Simply put, Luke Griffin is the best vocalist deathcore has to offer. From the first colon-cutting growl to his sky-high shriek, Griffin is at the top of his game throughout the entirety of Totalitarian Dystopia. His improvement (if such a thing was even possible) over Acrania’s past efforts is evident on the band’s reworking of “Susceptible to Retinal Reprogrammability,” where his previous brees and squees fell flat, they now soar, slicing the listener from top to toes without a second thought. Griffin’s vocal work is not only impeccable in the sense that his range is without rival, but that his vocal stamina is practically unheard of—as each track’s screams, shouts and growls are just as strong as the one before. Not only does Griffin have the most versatile range of heavy, slamming deathcore, but he is far and away the most consistent vocalist of any band in the scene, only improving with each syllable and shout he lets loose.

Between Griffin’s gory, grotesque vocal work and Simmons and Hadley’s dialectic dynamic, there is truthfully very little room for error to be found within Acrania’s tight-knit and carefully crafted dynamic. However, that isn’t to say it doesn’t rear its head in the form of monotony—a demon that plagues practically every full-length release from bands in the slamming deathcore genre. Portions of the album feel recycled, as Simmons’ go-to descending chug and Hadley’s splashy cymbal work feel almost the same whether it’s the middle portion of “Festering with Dishonesty,” “Servants of Hypocrisy” or “Messiah of Manipulation.” To be blunt, it seems as if this well-crafted but overused combination of quick, low chugging and bright, blaring percussion is used as a fallback where the threesome couldn’t craft anything truly unique. However, these moments (which are few and easily overlooked) serve a greater justice—as they link the numerous portions of heavy, hard-hitting perfection that appear throughout Totalitarian Dystopia. The instrumental track, “Survival Sequence,” for one, turns out to be one of the best—and heaviest—tracks on the release, using a series of eerie, insane guitar filters to mask the raw, gritty brutality that Simmons’ unleashes on the listener. Furthermore, Griffin’s picture-perfect pig squeal after shouting “SEND THEM TO THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE!” at the end of “Disillusionment in a Discordant System” is as close to pure poetry as deathcore gets—and the greatest way to end an album that I’ve ever heard.

If you haven’t been exposed to Acrania’s gargantuan style of slamming, prolapse-inducing deathcore, now is the time. Totalitarian Dystopia is nothing short of mammoth-sized riffs, steamrolling percussion and vocal brilliance—even if there are flecks of monotony and filler that need working around. In the end, when the world’s end begins and government as we know it faces complete collapse, this is the album that will be blaring over loudspeakers in every city.



For Fans Of: Blue Waffle, Disfiguring the Goddess, Acranius

By: Connor Welsh