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Acumen Nation [reviews]
Psycho The Rapist |CrackNation Records, 2007|

01. Fanglorious, 02. Hatchet Harry, 03. Elective Surgical Strike, 04. Sirvix, 05. No Imagination, 06. Remedial Math, 07. Idle Lysergic Corpse, 08. Holy Terror, 09. 200 Bodies Per Minute, 10. Penultimatum, 11. Acumen Trepanation

Acumen Nation has gathered as many fans as any formidable opponents during the course of the last 20 years, but the general impression that is left after listening to their music could be described as "love it or leave it".

While some listeners are drawn to Acumen Nation for their song arrangements, guitars, bass and aggressive vocals (which all may be assigned to industrial rock or industrial metal), others have a hard time accepting the break-beat electronics the band has been using a lot. Yet, other listeners appreciate the bands efforts mainly for the typical mixture of dominating music styles like metal, industrial hardcore, rock or even drum'n'bass. Listening to the music of Acumen Nation doesn't bring up many unusual impressions, because it doesn't hold similar forms of special depth when compared to f.e., Circle of Dust or Diatribe, in which this style of music became known for.

I'm not impressed with the A.N. sound; it's not "love from the first listening" as opposed to Skrew or the music of Ministry, but... let's have a look into some facts that will explain what earned Acumen Nation a high rating on this album after all.

Acumen Nation has been active as long as both of the bands mentioned above; for over 20 years now. The band was initially called Acumen and was founded by brothers Jason and Ethan Novak in Chicago in the late 80's... and they still reside in the same city. So, we have yet another band located in the windy city near the shores of Lake Michigan. Chicago has been supporting bands whose main musical content was electronica and guitars; either through certain clubs (for DJ sets, shows, parties) or labels such as WaxTrax!, WTII, BitRiot, Invisible Records, CrackNation etc., somehow connected amongst each other most often. The city is also called the “Cradle of industrial rock” because it is the place where most of the classic bands known for this characteristic sound come from; like Die Warzau, Ministry, My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Revolting Cocks and Project .44.
Acumen Nation labels their music as “industrial rock”, and while following that evolutionary path, it's easy to notice that the band has been a solid inspiration to a variety of industrial rock artists during the course of the last two decades. Therefore, if such a phenomenon appears, it's always worth taking a closer look into it.

The band has never been known for following anybody else's music. They have created and continued to perform a style perfected only by themselves, in which other bands have tried to copy, especially since 2005.
Jamie Duffy (programming) and Jason Novak (production, vocals, lyrics) have anchored the band since the very beginning. This kind of dedication stands for a musicians integrity and is also testament to their deep involvement into making music which even transcends beyond the Acumen Nation name. Both of them take part in a well known drum'n'bass industrial side-project called DJ Acucrack while running their own label called CrackNation. Their label has released music from at least six other bands, each of which holding a specific sound. Every project also involves either Jason Novak or Jamie Duffy (as if they haven't gotten enough of success).

Acumen Nation (they had to change their band name from Acumen in 1997 because there was a progressive rock band performing under the same name) has released several albums so far, but as I mentioned above, the delay of recording Acumen Nation albums on a regular basis has caused the musicians involved to devote their time to different side-projects. In fact, there were no new albums from the band between 2000-2005. During that time the musicians either cooperated with other groups or were touring quite often.

Psycho The Rapist was released three years ago and is the newest album to date. It is equally as aggressive as its precursor, Anticore, that was put out in 2006. However, it's not any form of luminary music to me and the compositions left me with an impression of wishful thinking that was mainly due to a lack of atmospheres. There's no emotional depth. Instead, there are a lot of arrangements made with the use of structural math and computers. I have decided to review this album though, thanks in part to very cool and aggressive guitar riffs that are found accenting every song on the tracklist.

I like the hardcore and metal music side of Acumen Nation the best. This is a stylistic sound which appeared on the songs "Hatchet Harry", "200 Bodies Per Minute", "Sirvix", "Remedial Math", "Holy Terror" and "Fanglorious".
The longest, most developed track entitled "Acumen Trepanation" is over 10 minutes long, but somehow it is missing a crucial plot.
If you've ever heard the last two 16volt albums, an association to "Idle Lysergic Corpse" should come to your mind almost automatically. The song "Elective Surgical Strike" should make the fans of Front Line Assembly happy.

Basically, there's no weak song on the album except for "Penultimatum", which discourages me every time I listen to it due to an overwhelming amount of electronic and pop music choruses. Actually, it seems to me if one took all the electric guitar layers off, the tracks would sound like pop songs.

It's undoubtedly worth the time to listen to the bands discography. I would recommend to begin with either Anticore or Psycho The Rapist first, or even their debut album Transmissions from Eville (1994) that is filled with coldwave tunes.
On a final note, there are not many bands that can successfully manage to build their own music style, much less those who have ever succeeded at it. This is why Acumen Nation has been imitated by less creative copycats. It's also important to know there have been a few side projects created from the Acumen Nation team such as Iron Lung Corp., The Clay People, Headcase, Czar, Fawn and Anhüsse. All of these projects came out with a very typical and dynamic sound.

(Katarzyna 'NINa' Górnisiewicz, 10/01/2010. Proofreading: Scott M. Owens. Must not be used for promotional or commercial purposes. See a Legal Note for the copyrights below)

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