When a band spends several years between releases, it’s fair to think perhaps big changes are coming. All that time squirreled away in some greasy dungeon toying with filth-caked instruments and hacking up phlegmy vocals is sure to lead to progress. Sometimes, however, that progress is less about adding new things and more about learning to remove excesses. With 2017’s Decreation, Acephalix let four of seven songs surpass the six-minute mark. That entire album was a crushing dose of OSDM that wasn’t short on memorable riffs and fist-pumping rhythms. On album number four, Theothanatology spends its shorter runtime going straight for the throat with all but one song staying under four minutes.
The core of Theothanatology takes inspiration from one of Decreation’s strongest tracks – “Suffer (Life In Fragments).” That’s immediately apparent as the first three songs feature a similar shout-along style of chorus backed by hook-laden rhythms and riffs that don’t quit. Don’t let that similarity fool you though, because guitarists Adam Walker and Adam Camara know how to flex their riffs to beat you down in different ways. They’re just as content to let those six strings gallop (title track), slice with tremolos (“Godheads”) and beat you down Dying Fetus style (“Postmortem Punishment”). “Abyssal,” in particular, sports a downright nasty meathead of a chugging riff that will surely have you sloshed and flailing around in the pit.
While the almighty riff is the most vital part of Acephalix’s presentation, the Adams make sure to add a little pomp here and there. “Godheads” and “Pristine Scum” both feature relatively mild but fun leads that add a flourish of wild energy to all the chugging and beating. Even in a more subtle way, “Innards Of Divinity” throws one guitar line into the left ear to add a little elasticity and bounce to a very basic rhythm.
The only minor gripe with this album is the overreliance on a spoken-word approach to vocals. They never appear for any prolonged period but rather show up too often throughout the album. When used as part of a building opening on “Innards Of Divinity” or the single-word pop-in at the end of “Godheads,” they work well. More often than not, however, they just seem a little odd or sap a bit of the power of the song, which is disappointing considering how strong Daniel Butler’s voice is otherwise. This is by no means a deal breaker, just a peculiar choice.
For whatever shortcomings those spoken-word moments may lead to, drummer David Benson more than makes up for them. His rhythms deftly enhance the power of the riffs by knowing exactly when they need a complete changeup, a subtle boost in speed or some extra space. Benson’s obsession with smacking the hell out of his cymbals is particularly enjoyable. The speedy taps on those precious metals in “Godheads” keeps the urgency high on a mid-paced riff and his outright abuse of them on the opening of “Defecated Spirit” is sure to see your metal spirit lifted rather than desiring the flush.
Theothanatology is a theory based on the belief that God is dead and that’s why secularity is booming and traditional beliefs are disappearing. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective. If God’s weakness is powerful simple riffs, then he’s for sure dead after this one.