By Kevin Stewart-Panko
About 250 years ago (okay, it was more like 20) during an interview promoting their then-up-coming third album, Manic Impressions, Anacrusis guitarist Kevin Heidbreder described the major difference between drummer Mike Owen, who had played on previous album Reason, and then-new drummer Chad Smith (no, not the dude from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but a former member of the equally obscure Heaven’s Flame) was that “Chad made love to his drum kit while Mike Owen fucked his.” It would seem that at some point over the last 20 some-odd years, Owen grew tired of the pile-driving and the slam-fucking of his drums and learned to take his snare out for dinner, bring his toms roses and make use of smooth and fluid body motions while kicking the kicks. This is one of the many before-and-after differences I was able to discern as the members of this St. Louis-based eclectic and progressive thrash crew reconvened after a rabid reception at 2010’s Keep It True Festival to re-record their first and second albums with the colour of hindsight, the wisdom that comes with age and experience and the rust that comes with not really having done much professional playing since breaking up in 1993.
It’s probably of very pertinent relevance to make mention of how much I worship Reason. There are very few albums I have listened to more than Anacrusis’ second. So, to someone who knows the album like the back of his balls, the prospect of a re-recording initially had alarm bells going off like fireworks in the hands of a Chinese pyromaniac. However, one of Reason’s most potent elements was always the undeniable and un-fuck-with-able strength of the songs. Tracks like “Stop Me,” “Terrified,” “Wrong,” “Child Inside” and “Quick to Doubt” are so solid that if you had a gang of monkeys play them on kazoos and accordions, the tunes would still be unstoppably awesome. Basically, a little tinkering here and there will never be able to kill the incendiary groove, the unique magic of the riffs and how guitarist/vocalist Kenn Nardi, bassist/Mississauga native John Emery, Heidbreder and Owen spun an otherworldly melange of thrash that intertwined the worlds of New York’s brash, streetwise sound, the Bay Area’s more technical bent and the disparate world of post-punk like Joy Division and Killing Joke. The soaring melodies of the choruses in “Misshapen Intent” and “Not Forgotten” still blow my frickin’ mind and give me goose bumps today. Sure, in addition to some of the solos being altered slightly and not-so-slightly (the guitarists often spat out one-take leads that I often tagged as “Kerry King discovers melody” and would be difficult to replicate on the best of days), some of the wild and reckless energy is missing in Owen’s more restrained fornication of his drum kit. Little bits of guitar have been added and subtracted, some parts given more prominence and studio effects exist where studio effects never existed previous, but all-in-all Reason redux is a faithful rendition of one of the greatest collection of metal songs ever to be presented in one place. Yeah, you heard me.
Their debut from 1988, Suffering Hour was a decidedly thrashier proposition, though you could hear the post-punk influence straining against their love of Slayer and Metallica in tracks like “A World to Gain” and “Fighting Evil.” And it’s on Suffering Hour where the present-day maturity really sands down the rough edges of the original batch of songs that were rawer, less sculpted and brasher. There’s a fair amount of lumbering through parts and sections that are/were unnecessary at best and cringe-worthy at worst (i.e. the first part of “Annihilation Complete/Disemboweled”). Not being nearly as intimately or carnally familiar with Suffering Hour as I am with Reason put me at a disadvantage when spinning this particular version, though they get the past-and-present mark of excellence for “Imprisoned” and “Present Tense.”
The package itself comes in an awesome double-disc gatefold resplendent with a new artwork/cover layout, old and new photos of the dudes, shots of the recent studio sessions, a thick booklet of lyrics and liner notes including testimonials from the band themselves and former Metal Forces editor, Bernard Doe which is bound to make those who familiar with the band and the man at the time really feel their age.