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Acumen Nation [reviews]
Transmissions From Eville |Fifth Colvmn Records, 1994|

1. Initialize Transmission/Matador, 2. Eville, 3. Gun Lover, 4. The Worms, 5. F.W.M., 6. Father In The Wall, 7. Noarms Nolegs, 8. Anchorite, 9. Chamaleon Skin, 10. Sutures, 11. Finalize Transmission

"Transmission From Eville" is the debut album from Acumen Nation. One of the most granitic and long-lived American Coldwave bands. No less than 20 years of underground activity, and apart from a hit and run by Chemlab (Oxidizer, 2004, where they are involved anyway) they are among the few bands that still, lucky for us, are keeping this music style alive, even if through Cyanotic and Everything Goes Cold the future is assured. Their long career is also distinguished by a sense of creativity out of the ordinary. In fact, this is the first album from a prolific discography: from 1994 to 2009. They published more than a dozen albums and EPs under this moniker.

As for talking about the moniker, it's necessary remember that they have started their career as Acumen, but after two albums, in 1997 they changed their name to Acumen Nation due to a legal dispute with another band. “Transmissions From Eville” was originally released as a demo for their own label, Robot Records, and quickly re-released by Fifth Colvmn Records with different tracklist and artwork.

But, it isn't over, because this album has more lives than a cat since it was reprinted by Coscience Records in 1998, in a remastered version (by Roger Liam, Masterdisk) under the Acumen Nation name and with an expanded tracklist, containing the following bonus tracks: "Matador (Remix)" originally published in the Re-Constriction compilation "Thugs n 'Kisses", & "Gun Lover (Remix)" released on the "If It Moves" compilation. "Scavanger in the Matrix", and "Ultraviolence" are Industrial electronica songs oriented for the dance-floor in the Front Line Assembly vibe, available on the demo and not published in the Fifth Colvmn edition.

So, if you're going to buy this CD I recommend that you find the Concrete re-issue, definitely the ultimate version. Now let's talk of those who took part in the album, since there are several interesting names, including the assistant-producer Keith "Fluffy" Auerbach, synonymous of confidence, having already collaborated with Chris Connelly, Lard, Ministry, 16Volt, Lead Into Gold, TKK.... just to name a few, Tom Baker (Mastering) and a young Jamie "Kid" Duffy (additional drum programming, Guitars, Digital Editing), who will become in the subsequent years member of Acumen Nation, and the second half of DJ? Acucrack, their breackbeat/Drum 'n' Bass side-project, which I'll discuss in subsequent reviews.

In the forefront, the band is formed by the two Novak brothers, Jason (Voice, Guitars, Programming) and Ethan (Drums, Guitars), both music and lyric writers along with Gregory A. Lopez (Drums).

The first and last track "Initialize / Finalize Transmission" contain an impressive concentration of raw sounds; The rodeo starts with “Matador”, where to put down an elusive cybernetic bull there are irascible lyrics, often inspired by the samples taken from horror movies, and the though approach on drums and guitars.

If you're asking where they took their influences, well it's easy, they are a Chicago based band, and Chicago is synonymous with Wax Trax! So here you are on the second track of the album "Eville", which is born from the influence of this memorable label like i was just saying ;) To better understand the artistic evolution of Acumen Nation, I recommend that you check out their retrospectives: Artifacts Vol. 1 and 2, published by Cracknation, two collections of demos from 1989 to 1994.

"Gun Lover" is the "HIT" of the album, the song easiest to remember. In fact, it has been published in several Coldwave compilations from those years, but they're also good for disentangling themselves into alternative rock just like in "The Worms". Which has nothing to envy to more quoted bands of those years like Korn. "F.W.M." (Fuckin White Man) is unforgettable for the movie sample "Damn It.. I said I was all right!" uttered by Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II, in conjuction with dance beats and heavy guitars, but mostly for the polemical tone of its lyrics. This will not be the first and only time that they'll vivisect with synthetic coldness the modern society. There's also a place for good guitar anthems, like in the song "Father In The Wall", reminiscent of Pantera's "Vulgar Display Of Power".

One of their most beautiful songs is "Noarms Nolegs", violent and heinous like a Dario Argento movie, its lyrics are second for cruelty only to "Flashback" by Ministry. This amazing song was re-recorded in 2006 for their "Anticore" album in an even more outstanding hardcore version. The good moment continues with "Anchorite", another top notch song, and "Chamaleon Skin" which has a great guitar riff, but is compromised by the excessive length, grinding on too long & too much.

As the minutes go by, you can hear a familiarity with "The Clay People", an Albany, N.Y. based band, and indeed these two bands will create the side-project: "Iron Lung Corp.", publishing the very good "Big Shiny Spears" in 1996, which includes "Frozen Shallow", present in the "Transmissions From Eville" demo, but not on the subsequent re-issues.

Between all these positive things there are however some faults, for example the vocal distortion and the massive background of guitars in the long run may be boring, making it difficult to listen to all in one breath. The sound design is a little bit dated nowadays, but also in the year of publication it wasn't very original compared to some releases of the same age. By comparison with alienated bands like Chemlab, here we have less freakish madness, and a more "two-dimensional" sound. These are the only things that didn't convince me.

This is the first successful step of a great band, and if you like this sound, remember to also check out "Firetribe" by The Clay People. These two bands know how to write good music.

(Marco Gariboldi, 03/25/2010. 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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