Retro-review: ‘Screams and Whispers’ by Anacrusis

I was wrong when I said in an earlier review that I put Anacrusis’ 1993 album Screams and Whispers aside and never bothered to listen to it much over the years.

I realized I was wrong when I listened to it again and recognized the majority of the songs as they played. Then it occurred to me that I had set it aside, but always kept it within arm’s reach. When I sat and listened to it for this review, I became ashamed of myself, dismissing what is a really good album.

I’m honestly pretty surprised that this album didn’t gain more attention at the time. I’m not sure why that was. It garnered plenty of positive reviews from the metal press and got airtime on Headbangers Ball, which usually leads to some degree of popularity.

It’s silly to say, but it may be the fact that nothing Anacrusis did visually really seemed to match the music. The art for the album wasn’t eye-catching, being little more than a blurred collage photo. Maybe it was the band’s logo because it was just really generic.

And don’t get my started on how underwhelming their video for “Sound the Alarm” was.

I think maybe they were a great band with lousy promotion. I know the music should overcome everything, but bad visual elements can become distracting. I actually think the band might have been hurt by the weak visual elements.

So, sadly, it took 25 years for me to come back and truly appreciate this album. I have to say it’s severely overlooked and a worthy listen to any metal enthusiast.

Kenn Nardi is the vocalist for the band. His vocal style is interesting. His raspy voice, which reminds me of Steve Souza of Exodus, suits the band well, helping it sound more thrash than progressive, two metal genres which they sought to fuse.

Kevin Heidbreder and Nardi both play guitars. Their aural assault sounds really good. Like I said, it’s not a gut punch. Instead, they’re the sonic equivalent of holding an angry cat to your face. They’re effective and almost everything they do is memorable, making the guitar work the highpoint of the album.

Nailing things down are John Emery on bass and Paul Miles on drums.

Miles has frequent chances to shine on the album and he makes the best of them. He’s not your usual “just keep the beat drummer.” Instead, you can tell he thinks about his pieces, fitting in something aside from simply keeping the beat when it can elevate a song.

Emery doesn’t really get a lot of chances to step out and shine on the album, but does he really need to?  His bass acts as the tether for Nardi and Heidbreder, so what more could you ask? It works well for band and their overall sound because they’re focused, not going in a thousand directions for every member to get their bit in.

The album

What can I say about Screams and Whispers?

One word: Shredding.

The guitars on this album are just in your face with their sound. They have a particular in-your-face sound that I haven’t heard repeated anywhere else. They take the top spot as far as being the driver of many songs, though at times the keyboards and drums move up to the front and do the heavy lifting.

Screams and Whispers explodes with “Sound the Alarm” and its shredding guitar. It was an excellent choice for both the opener and the single. It showcases Nardi and Heidbreder’s guitar shredding, which is particularly aggressive here, and allows for them to show off some soloing. Plus, it’s pretty catchy too. A pretty memorable tune.

You’ll find some great shredding throughout the album, with “Sense of Will” hitting you like a runaway tractor after the closing notes of “Sound the Alarm.” “A Screaming Breath” “My Soul’s Affliction” and “Driven” round up these shredders, with “Driven” sounding particularly heavy thanks to Miles’ bass drums.

There are some breaks in the shredding attacks, with “Too Many Prophets” being a prime example, with keyboards and melody moving to the forefront, with the guitars focusing more on rhythm. The closing song “Brotherhood” also moves the keyboards back to the forefront, but provides some good shredding too.

Division” also steps away from the all-out guitar barrage, letting Miles’ drumming shine and carry the song. It’s a good fast pace track despite the sparing use of in-your-face guitar.

There’s not really a bad song here. Many of them are pretty memorable in their own way, which shows how good the band was at crafting them.

The verdict

Man, did I under-appreciate Screams and Whispers at the time.

Looking back, I think that’s a little strange considering how many of these songs I actually remember. When I look back, this album always seemed to be nearby when I was on my PC, either surfing the net or playing strategy games.

Would I buy it again?

Yeah, Screams and Whispers is a great album that, if you went by artistic merit alone, should’ve been bigger than it was. Unfortunately, there’s no accounting for commercial taste.

 

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