Autarch – The Death of Actiacus (originally released 19 April 2013 on cassette and via Bandcamp; re-released May 2014 on vinyl by Headfirst! Records and All We Know Records)
Crust, as a musical genre, can be difficult to precisely pinpoint — it seems to hover somewhere around the intersection of gritty hardcore punk and various forms of extreme metal such as death/thrash/crossover or, sometimes, black metal. (This last association works especially well when the combined genres also incorporate atmospheric or “post-metal” elements.) While musically the term can span a fairly wide spectrum (while staying primarily within the general confines of the collection of styles mentioned), crust as a concept tends to be more clearly defined by its attitude and lyrical themes — often focusing on things like social issues, or protesting against perceived injustices. Therefore, it would seem to make sense for a band called Autarch to identify themselves with that tag: “autarchy” is a philosophy similar to anarchy, but with a strong emphasis on self-governance and pure individualism.
Following a self-titled demo in 2012 (which you can download from Moshpit Tragedy here, either for free or by donating any amount you choose, which will then be sent to Canada’s Cedar Row Farm Animal Sanctuary), this group from the Blue Ridge region of western North Carolina released an album called The Death of Actiacus last spring. (“Actiacus” is one of several names used for Apollo, due to the fact that one of the major ancient Greek temples dedicated to this god of sun and light was located at a site called Actium — so it seems, metaphorically, the album title is basically referring to the extinguishing of light.)
And now (actually, sometime within the past week), the album has been made available in a limited vinyl edition (just 300 copies pressed on grey marble). And the band is also in the midst of a tour up and down the eastern U.S. and Canada — with only a handful of dates remaining before they head back home, but including a stop in Pittsburgh tonight (Wednesday, 28 May). More on both the tour and the album can be found below.
With a sparsely arranged guitar intro, opening track “A Message” unleashes the atmospheric vibe immediately — albeit with a hint of a an Outlaws-esque southern twang. Throughout the album (five tracks, running a bit over half an hour in total), there are plenty of slower moments that sound mournful — and almost pretty, in a way — ranging from a sort of Pixies-ish post punk to a more shoegaze-y sound. These are interspersed with bursts of speed and aggression that tend to run in either a hardcore or D-beat vein.
Going along with the multitude of musical styles touched upon in these songs, there is also a variety of vocal parts — often two or three at the same time — which range from shouting to growling to shrieking to screaming. All of which seem a little hoarse (and understandably so!), and all of which mesh nicely together, whether done in unison, slightly offset unison, or alternating lines in a more call-and-response format.
With all of these elements combined together, the overall style/genre these guys play most reminds me of another band: the tragically-short-lived Pittsburgh band Old Man of the Mountain, whose self-titled debut album ranked as my #1 personal favorite release in all of 2013. (Some of the members of OMOTM have gone on to form a new band, Soothsayer, which I am told also plays a similar style of music, and which coincidentally will be one of the local openers when Autarch hits Pittsburgh tonight!)
In summary: anyone who’s a fan of any sort of atmospheric/blackened/post/crust metal should really do themselves a favor by checking out this album — and be sure to come out to one of their shows if you live near any of the scheduled stops they’re making (listed below).
Stream or download The Death of Actiacus via Bandcamp:
Order a copy on vinyl here:
The original cassette version is available here:
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Autarch remaining tour dates:
- 28 May – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Roboto Project w/Soothsayer, Skycoffins, Joey Molinaro
More Details: http://www.facebook.com/events/1378735872406202/
- 29 May – Baltimore, MD – Barclay Haus w/ Dopecopper, Sokushinbutsu, Citadel
More Details: http://www.facebook.com/events/735352789830108/
- 30 May – Washington, DC – Ft. Loko w/ Demands, Mobius Strip, Over & Out
More Details: http://www.facebook.com/events/728963797153964/
- 31 May – Richmond, VA – Sailor Scout House w/ Prisoner, Men’s Room
More Details: http://www.facebook.com/events/235183113355424/
- 01 June – Greensboro, NC – 1404 Greenwood w/ Dreaded
More Details: http://www.facebook.com/events/672451592825088/
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Headfirst! Website: http://www.page63.com
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