Acerus – The Tertiary Rite Review

[Artwork by Daniel Corchado]

Here is a noteworthy truth related to classic extreme metal bands and many of their fans: If you’ve been a part of that particular sphere since the early days, chances are pretty good you came into the scene with a healthy education steeped in what is typically referred to today as “traditional metal.” Does that make Death Metal Band X formed in the current era any less fundamental simply because they might not be able to pick Welcome to Hell or Fatal Portrait out of a line-up? Not really. But if you’re new(ish) to the scene and can’t help but wonder why so many bands and fans continue to venerate the genre’s progenitors, even if it sounds “too soft” to your ears, it’s because those pioneer bands were not only heroic in clearing new footpaths, they created fantastic music, pure and simple. Don’t think an outfit like Napalm Death that’s consistently intense and concerned with staying relevant cares about the roots of our genre? That’s how this ol’ road dog discovered Vicious Rumors (via a shirt Barney was wearing in a promo photo during the Harmony Corruption days), and Shane Embury and Mitch Harris have a band called Absolute Power that pays tribute to Judas Priest, Saxon, and Dio.

Dig even further into the guts of extreme metal’s underground and the story remains the same. Which brings us to the matter at hand. If you’ve hung around Last Rites long enough, you understand that as well as being students of classic heavy metal, we’re enthusiastic supporters of The Chasm — and of Cenotaph (MEX), the band that begat them — so it only stands to reason that we’d be interested in this, the homage to traditional metal offered up by The Chasm chief architect Daniel Corchado.

Acerus 2020

Acerus was formed amidst a stretch of inactivity from Corchado’s principal band that left many fans nervous that the years spent forever laboring in death metal’s underground sans major label support had finally taken its toll. Then, boom—Corchado and former The Chasm co-conspirator Julio Viterbo dropped the Acerus debut The Unreachable Salvation in 2012, making it clear that: 1) they still had a flair for working together (songwriting credits split right down the middle), and 2) the duo had undoubtedly spent a significant portion of their formative years obsessing over everything from Iron Maiden to Metal Church to Dream Death. Unfortunately, that Acerus launching would also mark the last time the two would collaborate musically, with Viterbo turning his attention back to Cenotaph and his mainstay Shub Niggurath (and now Heavens Decay), and Corchado continuing forward with his always evolving The Chasm and maintaining Acerus as an expression of his more traditional metal concepts.

Acerus album number two, The Clock of Mortality, dropped in 2016, and with Corchado responsible for all instrumentation, vocals and recording / production / mixing / mastering, the sophomore effort found the vision blending the lines between The Chasm’s mysticism and epic metal even more—like a more progressive interpretation of Ironsword, thanks largely to Corchado’s barbaric approach to vocals.

Now, with The Chasm (very unfortunately) in a new state of flux, Corchado has spent an allotment of his quarantine time putting the finishing touches on a brand new Acerus record, which finds the project reinstating its foothold as a complete band—Esteban Julian Pena (Speaker of the Temple) on vocals, Mario Hernandez on drums, and Ed Escamilla (Reign, Terranaut) playing leads—and the results convey a fresh, hungry energy that’s quite a bit more diverse with regard to pacing and arrangement compared to previous Acerus works.

Release date: May 15, 2020. Label: Lux Inframundis Productions.
One of the most immediately unique characteristics of The Tertiary Rite is the fact that it manages to pay tribute to traditional metal without really sounding like a reworking of anything from the typical cast of forerunners. So, while you can certainly tell that Iron Maiden’s sense of storytelling and their penchant for twisting construction is present, the record doesn’t really sound like something Eddie would mistakenly wander into. It’s bold and progressive and even thrashy at times, but it ain’t exactly a lost Mekong Delta album. It ticks a lot of the boxes for fantasy-focused classic mid-80s US power, but it’s far from an Omen Xerox. Really, the closest comparison in the modern age is probably a darker version of the sweet-spot years of Blaze Bayley that produced the highly underrated (and excellent) The Man Who Would Not Die — a project that, much like Acerus, is awarded the very straightforward genre tag of “heavy metal” by the good people of Metal-Archives. So yeah, that’s The Tertiary Rite in a nutshell: classic heavy metal that nods to thrash, doom, epic and progressive before they became full-on offshoots.

Acerus exhibit two distinct faces throughout these 47-minutes: the more aggressive side shown across a song like “The Fight with Destiny”:

And the slightly more sinister, doomy interpretation as demonstrated by “The Immersion”:

Both songs (and the entire album, for that matter) establish a familiar perception of dark mysticism fans have come to expect from Daniel Corchado and The Chasm, with an emphasis placed on RIFFS, shifting time signatures, and highlighting Pena’s stout, surging voice (which brings to mind the aforementioned Bayley with an added pinch of Joe Hutton / Hammers of Misfortune.) The addition of Escamilla on lead guitar is equally significant, as each song flashes just the right amount of melody in the corners via bursts of vivid fret-runs and a sufficient amount of leads to make it noticeable without ever feeling as if you’re getting beat over the head with undue noodling. Balance is key, and The Tertiary Rite hits that equilibrium pretty much front to back. Corchado even goes so far as to introduce a particularly satisfying dash of atmospheric keys in the later stages of the album that add even more depth to the narrative, bringing the record to an especially shadowy and epic end.

The Luxinframundis Productions Bandcamp page categorizes Acerus as “molten heavy metal,” and that’s about as apt a descriptor as one could hope for when gauging how strongly this record should ping on your personal radar. The songs are raw, molten iron ready to be forged into whatever sort of armament is necessary to help the listener fight off the gloom and frustration that walks hand-in-hand with quarantined life during a loathsome pandemic. And the fact that Corchado was able to conceive, construct, and coordinate (as well as produce / mix) such a work in the midst of such a challenging period in Earth’s existence is testament to how strongly he believes that heavy metal — great, classic, headbanging heavy metal — can not only act as a cathartic release for the architect, but for the fans as well.

“The sleeper has awakened!!”

Posted by Captain

Last Rites Co-Owner; Senior Editor; That was my skull!

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