Anhedonist – Netherwards (Dark Descent Records, 10 April 2012)
Good morning, Readers. Do you think I’m strange? Wait, don’t answer that. What I mean is, does it sound strange to you if I say that listening to some of the darkest, most mournful and depressing music actually makes me feel better? Here’s an example: last year I listened to a stream of Loss‘s critically-acclaimed album Despond, when that was made available shortly before the album’s release. I thought it was really good stuff — but shortly after that I was reading some reviews on some of the blogs I frequent, and admittedly I was confused by what they were saying. Stuff like how the experience took the listener to a really dark place, filled with torture and anguish and misery. I remember thinking to myself, I should really go back and listen to that again, because I remember coming out feeling peaceful and uplifted.
So with that in mind, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two possible things happening here: either I am totally strange, with some sort of abnormal personality disorder… or else being at work (where I do quite a bit of my music listening) is such an awful and soul-crushing experience, that listening to aural expressions of pure melancholy actually can brighten that environment. I don’t know, probably it’s a little bit of both.
In any case, I’ve developed quite a taste for the doomier side of music. I love doom metal, I’ve found that I generally prefer death/doom over standard death metal, and just within the past year or so I’ve discovered a strong passion for Funeral Doom. So, the next logical step would be a Funeral Doom plus Death Metal hybrid, right? Of course it would. I propose that it would be called Funeral Death. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Anhedonist.
First of all, the band name itself refers to a person who suffers from anhedonia, which is a psychological disorder in which the pleasure sensors in the brain get all screwy, resulting in an individual who no longer gets any enjoyment out of pleasurable activities. As you can imagine, this is a condition that’s closely related to clinical depression, as well as schiziophrenia and many other emotional disorders. Basically, we’re talking about a near-total absence of any joy here.
Just like any other funeral doom, this is not music for the impatient. In fact, it takes well over a full minute just for the distant rumbling sound that opens the album to become fully audible. But once it does, just like when you see slowly-gathering dark clouds, you can immediately feel that a heavy storm is on its way. Then, when it does start coming down, this is no typical April shower; it’s with the full force of a monsoon. Nor is this the type of downpour where it seems the sky has simply split open and dropped everything it had in a single instant, only to clear up and allow the sun to emerge mere moments later. No, heavy and oppressive though it may be, this is a much slower and more drawn-out onslaught, as described in the Bradbury story “The Long Rain”:
The rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped.
Later in that same story, one of the characters — which, by the way, were people who were suffering the imagined atmospheric conditions on Venus — compared the unceasing storm with a form of Chinese water torture, more for its similarity in the psychological effect it had on those who had to endure it, than for a parallel between the actual techniques. They say in the Chinese water torture, it isn’t the actual water dripping on your head that’s the problem; rather, it’s the interval between the drops. Apparently you slowly drive yourself crazy waiting for the next one to come. In contrast, the torrents of rain on Venus (in the story, anyway) are enough to dull the senses and drive people to insanity through the constant sound as well as the way the physical drops incessently hammer away at your body.
Well, over the course of its four tracks (averaging about ten minutes apiece), Netherwards sonically approximates both of these forms of torment: the nonstop onslaught of pulverizing doom/death riffing with the accompanying bassy growl, interspersed with dirgey funeral doom slowness and an agonized howl of pure madness. In other words, the best of both worlds!
Here’s a little preview of the album: listen to the opening track, “Saturnine,” via Soundcloud (courtesy of Axes to Grind)!
Then, read an interview with Anhedonist, and listen to an exclusive stream of track two, “Estrangement,” here via Brooklyn Vegan.