Anopheli – The Ache of Want (Halo of Flies, 15 December 2015)
Akem Manah – Demons of the Sabbat (Possession Productions, 11 January 2016)
Well folks, it seemed like it would never get here, but finally it’s Friday and nearly the end of the week! I don’t know about you, but I am fully ready to just go and hibernate for two entire days. (Of course, I won’t, because it seems like every spare minute I get outside of work is always filled by repairing something in our house or car, sometimes both at the same time — but just let me have this moment to daydream, ok?) Before I do that, I’ll leave you with one more article about some music you just might want to check out.
I’ve got two different albums to share with you, actually — one is kind of an atmospheric blackened crust style, and the other is more of an old-school death-doom. Both of these were released within the past several months, and both are free to download, so keep on reading and hopefully you’ll find at least one of these to your liking!
First, let’s talk about The Ache of Want by Oakland (California)’s Anopheli — a band made up of members of Light Bearer, Momentum, and Monuments Collapse, among others. These folks do atmospheric post-crust about as well as anybody out there right now, and the way they seamlessly interweave cello parts throughout the whole album really gives it an interesting and unique sound.
Just check out the first of these six tracks, “Awoken,” and you’ll be totally hooked for the next forty minutes or so. The song opens with multiple layers of cellos, droning and harmonizing, the combination of which sounds eerily like those used in the show Game of Thrones. This soon turns into a lengthy exploration of very atmospheric and thoughtful post-metal, with the cello accompanying the guitars, until suddenly — almost halfway in — the guitars become very distorted and the song bursts into fast-paced crust-punk (complete with growled/shouted vocals, sometimes in combination with a second screamed/shrieked part), although careful listeners will note that the cello still floats above all of this.
The remainder of these songs, generally about four to eight minutes in length, make use of some or all of the main ideas put forth in that opening track: there’s “Ruminations” which consists almost exclusively of acoustic guitar and cello, and “Squanderer” which is entirely in kind of a hyper-crust style. But for the most part Anopheli deals in contrasts: several songs make use of the two distinct vocal parts trading lines back and forth, and the band seems at its best when switching from mellower post-metal to crusty blasts and back again. For a great example of this, check out “Somnambulant” which opens up with a slower bass and drum rhythm, led by a melody from the cello, then the full band emerges, building up a much heavier variation upon the rhythm from the introduction; exploding into fullscale crust territory before breaking down into a much mellower and more introspective feeling over the last few minutes.
Today’s second album, was originally self-produced and self-released by Akem Manah back in 2014, “with little to no fanfare and tragically was heard by precious few,” according to the press release sent out by Belarusian label Possession Productions, who had subsequently discovered the album and decided to give it a proper release — which happened in January of this year. Akem Manah essentially consists of guitarist/vocalist Dead Nedry, who has collaborated with a number of other musicians over the years; on Demons of the Sabbat he is joined by bassist Chris Lollis (who was the guitarist/vocalist for Lecherous Nocturne in addition to spending several years on bass with Nile) and drummer Ivan de Prume, best known for his time with White Zombie, which included that band’s hands-down best album, 1992’s La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1.
Several of this album’s nine tracks sound markedly different from each other, from “Reign of Terror” made up of slow, sustained death-doom chords, with a hint of macabre organ buried among layers of guitars, to the instrumental “Unholy Horror” which prominently features the bass and drums — but the common thread throughout Demons is complex arrangements carefully composed of numerous different parts, assembled in a way intended to provoke deep feelings of dread and terror, the cause of which is both elusive and ancient, like an old avant-garde black-and-white horror film.
This sensation is first set in motion with the introductory track “Dark Ritual” with its foreboding piano chords, sound effects and sampled monologue, clearly indicating that something dark and sinister is on its way. Besides the fact that the drums sound virtually identical to old White Zombie material (which the totally do — compare the way “Nightfall” fades in and the drums build up, with the beginning of this song), the sound samples that are scattered throughout for added atmosphere also tend to reinforce that comparison. (To be clear, I’m not referring to any cheesy horror movie dialogue, just occasional sound effects, including the church bells that lead into “The Twisted Rites of Satan’s Bride.”)
This is combined with numerous different guitar tracks that each use different effects — flangers and phasers and whatnot — to achieve a huge conglomerate of sound. Occasionally (but not so often that it comes across as gimmicky) the guitar will have a touch of exoticness to it, sounding fairly Middle Eastern or perhaps Egyptian. Other influences emerge here and there as well; for example, sometimes it seems there is a good bit of gothic influence — specifically, the lead guitar sound in some spots throughout the album has an identical tone to some of those used by Mephisto Walz.
All of these various instrumental parts are then cobbled together, often in a seemingly cyclical construction that builds up layer by layer. And to complete the dreadful image, the last puzzle piece is the vocals: deep and dusty, and heavily compressed, they sound exactly like you might expect an evil Pharaoh’s mummy might sound, upon being disturbed after thousands of years’ rest. These vocals are added into the already intense concoction of music in different ways to achieve the desired results; in the song “Worship in Fire,” for example, the way the vocal melody follows the guitar part makes the whole thing come across like a dark, unholy hymn, and the nasty, acidic background vocals in “Demons Rise” certainly bring to mind images of the demons mentioned in both this song’s and the album’s titles.
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