At first glance, the cataclysm adorning the cover of New York black metal band Anicon’s debut LP Exegeses (photo by Kari Greer) resembles a great throne of fire carved into the mountainside. Polar winds and permafrost are nowhere to be found – this is a band that favors ash and cinder over the customary rime of the genre. Opening track “Toil and Mockery” continues to obliterate expectations with a punk-infused barrage of frantic drums and bass that immediately displays the taut musicianship on display throughout the album’s 48 minute run-time.
This is a band with a strong grasp on economy – capable of creating atmosphere without overbearing synths, wresting emotion from listeners without hollow theatrics, and paying respect to myriad genres without succumbing to mimicry. “The World as Will” lurches with the dissonant weight of Agonist-era Latitudes before splintering off into an angular riff that calls to mind some ghoulish mixture of 90’s Death and Carcass (I’m looking at you, Necroticism). Songs like “Mazzoroth,” “Robed in Torments,” and “From Teeth, From Tongue” weave through melodic tremolo-picked chords to the pompous stomp of traditional metal without breaking immersion; this alone is an impressive feat of songwriting.
Closing track “In Shadow and Amber” is a truly kaleidoscopic song that packs the disparate ideas of the record so tightly together that it might as well shit diamonds: in the span of six and a half minutes, it slithers through death metal riffing, urgent melody, scathing grindcore and a final vocal expulsion (read – “UGH!”) to remind you of an important fact: you’ve just been incinerated like the poor trees on that hillside. “…Amber” is a proper send-off, and a testament to how far black metal can be stretched without being uprooted from its foundations.
Guitarist/vocalists Nolan Voss and Owen Rundquist tastefully rend their throats throughout, careful to pace their delivery to avoid listener fatigue. A range of styles are present, from phlegm-riddled croaks to hardcore barks that compliment the compositions with their sparsity. Lev Weinstein (the drummer for fellow black metal weirdos Krallice) blasts, flams and grooves on his kit with the dexterity of a humanoid octopus, and the whole project is cemented by the animated bass-lines of Alexander DeMaria.
Exegeses shirks the tinny “frostbitten” sound of early black metal in favor of a thick, dynamic mix and master from the aural Midas himself, Colin Marston. Every cymbal flourish, bass run and pick scrape can be distinguished, shaping songs into statements. This album is a clinic on clarity that Loudness Warmongers could learn a great deal from. There are no waveforms in a solid rectangle!
As listeners take in Exegeses, the warmth of the production becomes the clouds of smothering ash, and the melodies suggest the hope of saplings – reborn from inferno.