Black Anvil up the production and foreboding atmosphere on new album As Was, without losing any of the evil, propulsive power of the more extreme moments of their earlier work. The January 13th Relapse release is one of our most anticipated records for 2017 (though I actually already have the glorious promo, obviously). Much like Tombs, the band have managed to expand on the elements of what works for them while retaining all their strengths. I have heard rumors the new Pallbearer and Suicide Silence records are much different. That is fine if what the bands want to do (though the live Suicide Silence song I heard so far sounds like they really are trying to bite Korn with the falsetto vocal shit), but I don’t think Black Anvil will be at much risk of losing their core fanbase despite this record being a bit more adventurous.
This is our last review of the year but the FIRST metal album to buy in 2017.
If anything, the only thing keeping this from being a 5 star review is that the band sounds slightly hesitant here and there to REALLY get unhinged with the ‘no limitations’ thing. Not everyone can be Aborym (though there is a very awesome acapella vocal section that closes the record).
“On Forgotten Ways” is 8 minutes of near perfection, elements of post and early BM co-existing very comfortably but without being conspicuous. You are far more aware that the song is simply good. 4:53 there is also a killer passage vocally that soars out of some more violent black metal and reminds a bit of something Enslaved might do on newer albums. It really compliments and lifts things up, creating a height to fall from when the dire snarls come back in before a huge six minute mark march riff lifts the band into really epic territory. If this was the last song the band ever wrote, it could be a zenith of their trajectory. It’s only the first track on the album!
I recently dove into the discography of UK band Fen, really brainy but earthy post/black band who toured with Agalloch and are deserving of way more praise (they also have a record due next year). The bands sound different but have similarities. Black Anvil and Fen have both built a groundswell of support through hard work, black metal roots and critical thinking over sole nihilism, but also have left room to find themselves a distinctive voice through room for expansion without becoming self parodying by needing to change up every single thing each album. That can be a gimmick in itself or overthinking. “May Her Wrath Be Just” is pretty straightforward black metal with some over arching melodic guitar lines that could just as readily fit in a melodeath song. Not bad and certainly cool, but not the best song either. The 6:50 title track is much more interesting, opening with quiet almost classical influenced Metallica grandeur before getting very BIG and very metal.
It’s really a thrill to see bands you have followed for years coming into themselves so fully. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for Celtic Frost’s To Mega Therion, for example. I CAN watch Black Anvil now reaching for new ground and grin whilst sipping a copper IPA as the equally bitter sounds assail my ears. Still, much like the show The 100, it is very good but falls just slightly short of being the next Game of Thrones, for example. I wish they were a hair more bold.
Perhaps, though, it is simply the elitism we associate with black metal at times that is causing a bit of disconnect when measured with the crisper production as opposed to the core root feeling of kinship I feel from, say, Wardruna’s “Heimta Thurs” but which weaves in and out with As Was. Which is not to say this album is bad. It is bad ass, just sometimes you feel more invested in it than at other points. But really, how many albums is that not the case with?
“Two Keys: Here’s The Lock” is one of the more interesting tracks, reminiscent in some ways of some of the more experimental and quiet Abigail Williams if someone was getting a blood transfusion from Monotheist Frost, while watching Spaghetti Westerns during the intro .
The bass tones are so dope on a lot of this stuff, really cutting through at crucial moments and adding a bigger element to the unified barrage parts. And again I am really feeling an Enslaved connection on some of the direction of the record. I wish there wasn’t a song called “The Way Of All Flesh” as that is pretty much owned by Gojira at this point (who still reads about Victorians in metal besides the excellent folks in A Forest Of Stars, lmao)? The Anvil song is an acoustic heavy hovering around a delicate flame and lends even more dynamics to an already very well done release before an almost Moonspell “In And Above Men”-type tribal beat comes in for supreme closer “Ultra”.
Black Anvil are touring with Mayhem and Inquisition in 2017, but anyone who gets there late will miss out on the band on the bill who is currently doing the coolest stuff.