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Anacrusis was one of the more talented bands which somehow got lost in the shuffle of the late-'80s thrash phenomenon. Plagued with poor distribution and isolated from the thriving speed metal communities on either coast, they were often said to be ahead of their time by enthusiastic critics, but it seems that their eclectic style simply shot over most listeners' heads.
The members of Anacrusis grew up in and around St. Louis, MO, and like most kids of their generation found a common bond in the ever influential Kiss before discovering metal originators Black Sabbath and the more extreme exponents of the early '80s. After the breakup of his High School band, Heaven's Flame, singer and guitarist Kenn Nardi joined forces with guitarist Kevin Heidbreder, bassist John Emery, and drummer Mike Owen to form Anacrusis in late 1986. Unsure about his own singing abilities, Nardi convinced the band to tune all the way down from natural "E" to a low-"B," thereby striking upon a distinctive, incredibly bottom-heavy sound which would eventually become their trademark. Anacrusis' first demo, which they named Annihilation Complete was voted Best Demo of 1987 by the readers of Metal Forces Magazine and was later included in the publication's Scream Your Brains Out compilation album. This, in turn, led to a deal with England-based indie Active Records, for whom the group waxed their first album, Suffering Hour, the following year. Recorded on a measly 1,200-dollar budget in just under a week, the disc was a jumble of ill-matched material culled from the bandmembers' many earlier projects, and only its rabid speed and aggression helped make it at all cohesive. Still, it was a start, and the following year's Reason LP, though similarly rushed and amateurishly produced, already showed signs of the band's increasingly focused vision: incredibly complex arrangements injected with unconventional dynamics borrowed from prog rock and even new wave. Anacrusis hit the road in support of crossover heroes D.R.I., but supporting an album that had yet to be released in their own country proved too disheartening for drummer Owen, who quit to join the Navy shortly after they returned home. Thankfully, old friend Chad Smith, who had played with Nardi in his Heaven's Flame days, was ready to assume the position, and in another stroke of good fortune the band soon landed a new deal with Metal Blade, which released both albums in the States.
1991's Manic Impressions was the first Anacrusis album recorded in a proper studio, Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, WI, and, though the band's homegrown production techniques resulted in a somewhat dry, overly mechanized sound, it is still widely considered their finest hour. Revealing a far more mature and confident group, the record's challenging and innovative material was made all the more memorable by Nardi's much improved, now quite impressive vocal range, and included among its highlights a cover of New Model Army's "I Love the World." A lengthy tour supporting Overkill and the Galactic Cowboys followed, and the band finished the year on a high note, opening a set of Midwestern dates for Megadeth. Once back home in St. Louis, they devoted the next few months to writing new material, and after replacing Smith with drummer Paul Miles, work finally began on 1993's Screams & Whispers. Picking up where its predecessor had left off, the album continued to push the band's sound in new directions (including their first tentative use of keyboards), but despite continued support from the heavy metal press and finally benefiting from the involvement of a professional producer (metal expert Bill Metoyer), this too failed to reach a wider audience. Perhaps realizing that they'd come as far as they could, Anacrusis quietly disbanded a short time later, leaving a criminally underappreciated, often misunderstood, but undoubtedly unique musical legacy behind them.