Anicon – Aphasia (self-released 06 May 2015; cassette via Acteon Records, 15 September 2015)
It’s Friday and the work week has ended and I’m all ready to kick off the weekend by heading out to the Slaves BC record release show! For those of you who aren’t close enough to Pittsburgh to make it here this evening, though, I’ve got something for you to keep yourself occupied — a band I first discovered when I saw them at another Slaves show…
About two and a half years ago, I went to see them with another excellent local band, Storm King, at this rinky-dink little dive in Pittsburgh called Kopec’s. The performance area was more like the living room of a run-down old apartment upstairs from the bar — a cool little space, which has been sadly missed ever since they stopped hosting shows later that same year. Anyway, that night was a special treat because a third band also played, whom I was not previously familiar with, but who definitely grabbed my attention and impressed everyone in the room with their energy and high-quality musicianship: the New York black metal group Anicon. Here is a video from their set that night, to give you a taste of what’s in store.
As one does when seeing a really good band from out-of-town play, I remember wanting to patronize their merch table, but as I recall they only had cassette tapes for sale, and since this is the twenty-first century, I had to leave empty-handed. Well, fast-forward to mid-2015, and I discovered that Anicon had put out a new EP. They said they had recorded it themselves in their practice space, intending for it to serve as a demo for a full-length due out sometime in 2016. But practice space demo or not, “Aphasia” still landed a spot on my list of last year’s best releases. Keep on reading (or just skip the next bit and head down to the part where you get to hear it for yourself) and I’m sure you’ll understand why.
Named for a disorder wherein some form of brain damage has impaired a person’s ability to use and/or understand language, the “Aphasia” EP consists of three songs, each ranging between 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 minutes long. The opening notes of the first track “Fall from Earth” — a reverby, faraway sounding guitar arpeggio that soon gets doubled by what appears to be a cello — are guaranteed to sink their hooks into your ears and drag you into Anicon‘s world. Once you’re there, you’ll be surrounded and overwhelmed by layers of lightning-paced black metal riffs galloping back and forth.
Each song contains a handful of different riffs — which the band seems inclined to start and stop and switch between on a dime; that precision is one of the more impressive things about this recording (especially considering it’s just supposed to be a demo for an upcoming album). Not everything is at whirlwind speed, though; they definitely keep things interesting by varying the tempo every once in a while, throwing in some clean guitars and turning all introspective at times.
One thing that stands out to me is the production and sound quality, which is an odd thing to say about a black metal recording. But when I saw this band live I appreciated that there was no pretense or artifice about their image — none of the cliche face paint or uniforms that many people seem to find necessary, even though they are really just copying what others have done, completely missing that the whole point of using outlandish imagery is to develop an individual identity. No, the band (whose name actually comes from the philosophy of aniconism, being against images that represent deities or other religious figures) was just some regular-looking dudes, who let their music be the entire message they were conveying. Likewise, rather than adopt the super-lo-fi affectation that far too many in the genre believe lends authenticity (while, again, this is merely aped from those who’ve come before), Anicon seem to prefer a sound that — while gritty enough to fit the bleak and angry vibe their songs give off — actually lets each part shine through, allows you to hear that there are in fact guitars and bass and drums and vocals, each interesting and different and very well-performed, rather than simply a blob of noise.
If you’re into that whole tape thing, Aphasia is available to purchase in that format right here, or you can listen and download at Bandcamp:
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http://www.facebook.com/scrapingearthandsky (Anicon Facebook page)