Metal Band Acius Making Noise in the Underground

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There is a near-dystopian sense of normality on the Connecticut shoreline; upper-middle class banality is a lifestyle, and residents often look at eccentrics questioningly.

This is why Clinton is such an unexpected place for a once-thriving metal scene; in the mid-to-late oughts, big names in metal--Within the Ruins, My Hero is Me, and others-- played packed shows at the Clinton Town Hall.

Fans from the area affectionately called the scene "shorecore." But the Clinton Town Hall hasn't hosted a show in over 5 years, and the scene is now defunct--save for one group of musicians who refuse to let it die.

Acius is the last remaining shorecore band. And its members--vocalist Justin Hagen, guitarist Daryl Baker, guitarist Michael Antoch, bassist Collin Brady, and drummer D.J Middleton--are veterans in the underground circuit.

I got a chance to sit down with Baker, Antoch, and Middleton recently to discuss their humble beginnings, their rise to prominence in New England, and their collective musical vision.

The band's name is derived from the Latin word for battlefield. But don't assume that their lyrics fall into typical progressive metal pastiches. They don't.

There is a relatable aspect in their music that is rare in the genre. And they hold no qualms about deviating from the norms of progressive metal. They're just trying to be them.

"The meaning of (Acius) is battlefield or battleground," Baker stated. "And... we're portraying our art as emotions and consequences that you go through on the battlefield.

And the battlefield can just be described as any aspect of life, you know. It could be like... you hate your boss, or you're fighting in a war, or anything... There are all types of battles."

Their relatable lyrics can be attributed to Hagen. Acius is his first band, but he's been a presence at shows for years. In the past, he took up merch duties for former shorecore stars, Behold Oblivion.

"Justin's been amazing," Baker stated about Hagen's lyrics. "We feel like he really just has a raw talent. Like, you know, since this is his first band.

But his style is like... the kid loves pop punk. He loves like... Attila."

Despite their grounded lyrics, their musical ambition is what you'd expect from a progressive band. And Antoch and Baker's complimenting yet distinct guitar styles help push the group to new horizons.

"The way that Mike and Daryl write together, they just compliment the (expletive) out of each other," stated Middleton. "Daryl, he's got like a dark, brutal sound.

But Mike, he's just got more...emotion. He like brings in the other element and just fills out the sound entirely."

Their peers in the local circuit have noticed their distinct sound; earlier this year, Acius entered a battle of the bands for a chance to play main stage at New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. The band considers it their biggest accomplishment to date; artists from the northeast region of the country packed into a tight space to compete for a chance to play one of the biggest venues in New England.

Acius won this contest, and their reception from the audience was one of floor-shaking approval. Antoch thinks it was "one of the best shows (they've) had."

Acius' next big show is their EP release party. Happening on November 22, they're headlining a bill that has bands like: Under a Serpent Sun, Cyperna, and Fall of the Albatross.

If you want to listen to Acius, go to their Facebook page here.