During the band's heyday of 1986 to 1994, Anacrusis climbed from the ranks of north St. Louis county basement bands to a group touring the country with nationally released albums. Bringing a melange of influences to their version of heavy metal, the band was based around the core trio of guitarist/vocalist Kenn Nardi, guitarist Kevin Heidbreder and bassist John Emery, with the group rounded out by a trio of drummers in Mike Owen, Chad E. Smith and Paul Miles.
In the early 2000s, there was a small rush of renewed activity, including a German festival show, another in Belgium, a Caribbean cruise and a few scattered dates in St. Louis, some with Mike Henricks filling in on guitar in lieu of Heidbreder. A couple of compilation albums and live DVDs were released in that time period, as well. Even that second phase of Anacrusis, pieced together on a show-by-show basis, ran its course by 2013. And it wouldn't be until this year, with Metal Blade's re-release of the group's four albums on both vinyl and as CD-digipaks, that the band's members decided that a true legacy show was needed to cap their time(s) together.
For its Saturday, December 7, show at Delmar Hall, Anacrusis is bringing the maximum rock with all three drummers taking part (and each playing their own kit, no less) in a chronological, career-spanning night. Taking the classic "An Evening With ... " approach to this event means there won't be an opening band, but the stage will feature a DJ set from Rob Meihofer, who was one of two DJs to host Metal Mania on KCFV (89.5 FM) in the '80s, a show that was crucial to the band's underground metal leanings.
"We had already gotten together again with the original lineup back in 2010 for a few shows," Nardi says, "When we were approached about maybe doing something to promote or celebrate the Metal Blade reissues, we didn't see much point in going through all of that rehearsing and re-learning the old songs again just for another reunion show. The idea of everyone playing seemed really cool, but we never seriously considered it, beyond maybe the other drummers getting onstage for a song or two.
Once he started asking his former bandmates about the show, though, the idea quickly took off.
"Ultimately, we decided it would be an Anacrusis fan's dream show to see all three incarnations of the band in one show," he says. "Then, as we started working out the details, it turned into more of a big celebration for us and for our music and an opportunity to hang out with friends, fans and family. We're really looking forward to it. As for rehearsals, it has been tough for sure. Back when we were still together, Anacrusis was everyone's main priority. It was a full-time thing. Now, most of the guys work regular jobs or play in several bands and getting everyone together is a real challenge, but we'll get it done."
The band's history was well-covered in a 2010 RFT piece by D.X. Ferris introducing the first of the group's return gigs. Giving a great synopsis of the band's sound, Ferris wrote that "Nardi could hit hellion highs and wielded a good growl, although he never trusted his vocal range — which is why he talked the band into downtuning to B, nearly a decade before it was common practice. Anacrusis had thrash roots, but it added midtempo breaks, juxtaposing clean melodies and rougher rhythmic outbursts. Late in the band's career, inspired by Celtic Frost, it started adding pseudo-symphonic flourishes that Nardi played on keyboards. The group always had a technical edge that bordered on prog and effortlessly made the transition when thrash started to wane and death metal and proto-black metal rose in popularity."
(It should also be noted here that the band's history is deeply documented by Nardi in a chapter-by-chapter approach to the group's initial, eight-year run on the band's site, anacrusis.us.)
To prepare for the upcoming show, Anacrusis has been rehearsing almost every Saturday at Nardi's home, where the band's found its songs coming together. Ditto the general sense of camaraderie.
Heidbreder references the fact that "everyone has grown as people. That helps. With time and perspective, even if you fall into those same old habits and reactions, you have some grown-up safety built into it. You're not seventeen or eighteen anymore. You can have different takes on things, even things that bother you, but the way it's dealt with, processed and handled shows our maturity level. There's still bitching and bickering over petty things. Of course there is, it's still a band."
Heidbreder notes that something keeping the group focused on putting together the best show possible is the fact that fans will be coming from around the country — and, in a few cases, from around the world — to catch what may be in the last show they do and almost certainly the last they do with the inspired notion of all three drummers taking active part.
"I don't know that we ever gave it a proper goodbye," he says. "And while you never say never, it'll be nice to pay respect to what we did in the past. We're doing this for all the right reasons, while everyone's healthy and able. For everyone to be available was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."
To Nardi, an interesting piece of this puzzle is also rooted in the fact that Anacrusis ended somewhat suddenly, without any single, big bang moment of dissolution.
"We had continued to push ourselves forward with each album, and by the time we recorded Screams and Whispers, we had definitely developed our own style," he says. "However, I was never big on repeating myself, musically speaking, so I was always thinking of what we could do to expand even more. I had drifted away from metal music and had gravitated more and more toward bands like the Cure and Joy Division. We were always able to draw from our non-metal influences without being too obvious about it, but I really was not feeling particularly inspired to continue doing what we had been doing.
"By 1993, it was clear that something had to break," he adds. "We were fighting over everything from the label to management to just about everything else you can think of. By the time we had done the European tour with Death, I remember thinking it was odd because I didn't have a single riff or song or even thought of new music for another Anacrusis album. We always had a few things in the works that would ultimately guide us in whatever direction we'd end up going for another album, but not then. There was nothing."
To a large degree, though, all of that history's an aside to a one-off gig that they intend to be "an Anacrusis fan's dream" show.
"Of course," Nardi says, "looking back, I am proud of what we created together. And it's nice to see our music 'officially' made available to the world again."