(Andy Synn encourages you all to embrace change with the new album from Anomalie, out now on AOP Records)
In a lot of ways the music scene is like an ecosystem.
From the apex predators to the bottom feeders, every band/artist has their particular place, their particular niche, in the natural order of things.
Some of these niches, of course, are more fertile – creatively speaking, I mean – than others, and some of them are simply… overpopulated… but, either way, it’s still fascinating to watch all the inner workings of the scene, from the macro down to the micro level, as bands and artists are continually dying and being born in a seemingly endless cycle.
It’s even more interesting when you start being able to map and follow the evolution of various bands, and Anomalie’s progress in particular has been truly fascinating to observe.
Originally Anomalie were part of a loose conglomeration of bands – which included Harakiri For The Sky, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Agrypnie, Downfall of Gaia, King Apathy (RIP), and more – who, while not exactly a “scene” unto themselves, all plied their trade in a similar sort of area (both sonically and geographically) situated somewhere between Black Metal, Post-Metal, and Post-Hardcore.
But, as the years passed each of these bands moved off in a slightly different direction, some choosing to place their emphasis more on the Black Metal side of their sound, others embracing a more Crust and/or Post-Metal-influenced identity, and so on, to the point where they each now occupy a unique musical niche, almost entirely independent of one another, with only the faintest of threads still acting as reminder of the fact that they were once much more closely bound.
Of all of them, however, it’s probably Anomalie who have changed the most, and opener “The Tree” quickly makes it clear just how much the band’s sound has altered and evolved since last we heard from them, the doomy grandeur of the track and the gloomy beauty of the vocals gives the song a sonic signature more reminiscent of bands like Primordial, Secrets of the Moon, and Woods of Ypres, than those artists with whom they once shared a common origin.
Black Metal is still very much a core part of the band’s DNA of course, don’t get me wrong, but it’s no longer dominant, and even though several of the tracks feature a much-needed injection of blast-driven intensity it’s the abundance of singing, chanting, and crooning clean vocals – reminiscent of both Tijs Vanneste (Oceans of Sadness) and Phil Jonas (SotM/Crone) – which truly dictates the overall tone and texture of the record.
I suppose this new evolution of the band’s sound shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise. After all, the signs were already there on both Visions and Integra, and the album title alone – Tranceformation – was a clear signal that Anomalie’s fourth album was indeed going to be transformative.
But, even so, the firm focus on hypnotic melodies and trance-like moods on songs like “Relics” and “Eternal Burden”, coupled with the relative lack of screams, snarls, and growls across the entire album – I’d estimate, at most, only 20% of the vocals are of the “harsh” variety, even taking into account a guest appearance by Rotting Christ frontman Sakis Tolis on “Cerulean Sun” – still feels like a bold, and brave, step into the unknown for both the band and their fans.
Make no mistake about it though, while Tranceformation still possesses much of the same seething energy and swirling, tremolo-conjured tension as the band’s previous works – enough, at least, that long-time listeners shouldn’t find themselves totally out of their depth – it is, ultimately, the sort of record which can truly be described as “Post” Black Metal (as opposed to “Post Black Metal”, which is a subtle but important distinction).
Will it prove to be divisive? Probably yes. But it is also, without doubt, the most distinctive and irresistibly magnetic album of the band’s career thus far.