The clatter of the garage door rolling shut, the lights brought down to a dull blood red and the bald figure onstage beckoning us closer. All nerves on the precipice of panic. Beer buzz replaced by extreme claustrophobia. This is Blast-O-Mat. This is Acephalix.
Just moments ago I was outside reflecting on teenage years in venues like this, consuming beer from a red plastic cup like it was against the law. Now I am surrounded by spray-paint splattered walls, every inch a scrawled warning. Locked in a freight container postmarked to Hell. Caged with a rabid animal. Do not show fear; do not admit to being frightened like that guy over there. That guy is fucked!
‘you can all come closer’ were the last words spoken before ‘Dan the man’ became ‘Dan the beast’. From that point on, animal instincts would rule the floor. Dave pummeled his drums like he was beating the necessary oxygen out of them. Each near-fatal strike to the kit providing one more breath, one more second of life in this metal box a mile above the sea. Luca hid behind a curtain of coiled hair while his fingers raced across his white bass, a reminder of a lightness that ceased to exist just moments ago. Kyle knows there is no light, there never was, so he keeps his head down and drowns in deep, crunchy riffage from which there is no escape. This is the crusty, hardcore death that is Acephalix and now it’s time to meet its leader…
This is not your average death growl, not even close. A death growl is when a man tries to sing like a beast. Dan is a beast trying to sound like a man. A Frankenstein made of alpha orangutan parts; he literally guts himself trying to get his point across. He has something to say and he knows you cannot comprehend the language he is spewing out at you. He is going to make you feel his pain, feel his hurt, anger…his rage. Flailing his arms in the air, barking and spitting at you. If those veins in his head explode, all the better to get his point across. And when all else fails, he’s going to physically knock the shit of you. Your only hope is to mimic his animalistic actions, show him you are also an alpha and you are not to be fucked with (even if you are one of those crazy-ass chicks in the pit).
You want your death metal with a side of punk and a thick crust? You want your hardcore in 3D? Acephalix is for you. Dan does not shy away from joining and even inciting a pit, Kyle does not shy from soaking Dan’s punk rock attitude with ‘heavier-than-thou’ metal riffs and Luca and Dave are the reason people went to work with bloodied cotton balls in their earholes this morning. The overall product they produce is harder than the nails used to crucify Christ. This is dirty, filthy music…under your fingernails, in your hair, deep down in your pores dirty. The transformation from the dudes I met out front, to the band who performed one of the most intense 30 min sets I have ever seen, was as disturbing as it was invigorating. I only wish I would have been able to stick around and see if Undergang came close to matching the energy of this young band from San Francisco.
Acephalix might not be doing anything that hasn’t been done before, but they are doing it better than anyone out there today. Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but that’s bullshit. Acephalix have taken the tools left behind by those that came before and they have built with them. Sure, they destroy everything in their path every night, but during the day they are building and I doubt any of the bands represented on their jackets wouldn’t be flattered.
A Mile High Metal interview with Acephalix:
Earlier this year I wrote a profile on Southern Lord. That profile led to an in-depth interview with Greg Anderson. During our discussion he mentioned how excited he was about Southern Lord’s latest band, Acephalix. I was able to meet up with ¾ of the band before their set at Blast-O-Mat last night.
MHM: So, you’re about half way through this tour with Undergang, a tour that started and will end at home in the San Francisco Bay Area, how’s it been so far? How’s the road treating you?
Luca (bass, from Italy): The road has been treating us kinda rough lately because we have had some really long drives. In Salt Lake City we are going to have to play and leave to be able to play an afternoon show in Portland. It’s going to be insanity.
Kyle (guitar): We are starting to get into the groove now that we are a week in. 11 hours today from Oklahoma City.
Luca: We have had some good shows and some less good shows as usual.
MHM: How did Acephalix come to be?
Dan (vocals): Kyle and I met in 2007 and wanted to start a band over our mutual love for Sacrilege, Cro-Mags and…
Kyle: Anti Cimex…Scandinavian Jawbreaker
Dan: So we found some people, got Sarah (who was the second vocalist) and started playing. We’ve been through all the changes in the band and the line-ups and it’s just become what it is now. It is what it is
MHM: The new album, Interminable Night, has been released on Southern Lord. I spoke with Greg Anderson about this a few months ago and he was pretty excited. How did that relationship come to be and how it is working out for you?
Luca: After we released Aporia on Prank, the style of our music was going more towards death metal (and further from the) crust sound of the beginning. Aporia was already pretty heavy for Prank Records and we knew that Prank (might) not interested…because the style of the music. We released tapes, two demo tapes, one that came out in 2010 and it was called Interminable Night and it had three songs. We hooked up with Jeff, the same guy we recorded the other albums with. We made 150 copies and we were just selling them at shows. We didn’t even send them out to anybody. And then Greg got one of the tapes from someone, somehow and he really liked it. He sent us an e-mail and at the time we were releasing our second demo tape and he offered to put them on a CD. Agipunk had already offered to do an LP. So everything came together. So far it’s been good. We are just in the beginning of relationship, but so far so good.
MHM: Was changing from ‘hardcore/crust’ to more a ‘death metal’ sound a conscious decision? Is it just where the band went? And how does Acephalix differ from Vastum (Dan, Kyle and Luca’s other death metal band)?
Kyle: Musically (Acephalix and Vastum) are very different. Acephalix has a lot more punk kinda death metal in it than Vastum and it is more high energy. Vastum is kinda moodier and slower and totally different vibes.
Dan: It was an intuitive thing; I think it was a conscious decision to start playing death metal but it was something we were certainly feeling. It wasn’t just cerebral, like ‘oh, let’s do this’. We were feeling it…
Luca: We have a more solid line-up; we had a chance to realize the sound we want.
Dan: And there’s always been death metal influence in Acephalix. There’s been bands like Master and Deathstrike and Swedish bands who have a lot of punk in their death metal and they come from the punk scene. It’s not a big stretch because they have crusty punk esthetics to some extent.
MHM: I haven’t had a chance to read any lyrics; can you explain the lyrical themes and philosophy behind Acephalix?
Dan: Both bands (Acephalix/Vastum) have similar lyrical themes and revolve around similar ideas. In general it would be revolving around the death of the ego; the death of self…’the horrors of psychic life’ is a phrase that sums that up pretty well. Acephalix come from a French journal started by George Bataille. So a lot of it centers around the concepts and themes and ideas that he wrote about. Literature on Bataille or written by him. Or people he was influenced by….different mystics. Christian mystics, Hindu mystics (Deathless Master)…that’s the kind of stuff we write about..
MHM: Who have been your biggest advocates in the Bay Area? Bands, artists, venues, bars, promoters?
Luca: Definitely Ken (Ken Sanderson of Prank Records)
Luca: More than anyone, Jeff Leppard.
Kyle: (Jeff) has worked on all our recordings except for our single. He makes it affordable for us, he works with us and he’s really good.
Luca: We didn’t have to pay for our Prank (material), but after that we recorded those tapes ourselves and Jeff made it affordable for us. We didn’t have the money to record but he’s really into us.
Dan: Leila from Saros, she was a really big advocate early on…how we ended up playing with her in Vastum.
Luca: She was pretty much coming to see us every time we were playing in the city or Oakland.
Dan: Some other local promoters are really supportive of us. Of more recent people…Dispirit, you know…has been supportive and encouraging…asking us to play shows. There are other people, but those are the ones coming to mind.
Luca: We have had lots of help. We have never really had to ask for anything. People were always getting involved.
Luca/Dan: Undergang have been amazing on this tour. They have made the tour…without them we would have…(shake their heads)
MHM: What’s next for Acephalix?
Luca: We just finished recording the new record (for Southern Lord). We are going to finish the mix when we get back and it’s gonna come out in Sept/Oct and we are gonna go to Europe for a month on a tour that Agipunk organized for us. And then we’ll keep doing what we do.