Apr 072023

photo by Bobby Bonesy

In writing about the music of the New Orleans ensemble Anareta we feel a gnawing sense of inadequacy (more than the usual). There’s an anxious conviction that to do it true justice would require more knowledge and learned appreciation for classical music, including the beautiful interplay of instrumental voices in chamber music, than we possess. On the other hand, we do know a thing or two about extreme metal music, and that turns out to be equally relevant.

Of course, Anareta aren’t the only band who have sought to integrate compositional and instrumental traditions of Western classical music with the harshness and aggression of heavy metal in some of its more extreme forms. But many other bands in that space use orchestral synths to weave in the classical elements. Even the more subdued sounds of string sections are usually the result of programmed samples.

Anareta, on the other hand, have a more authentic approach, with a line-up that includes performers on viola (Mackenzie Hamilton), cello (Sam Hollier), and violin (Louise Neal), along with the more familiar metal instrumentation of guitar (Carey Goforth), bass guitar (Sarah Jacques), and drums (Boyanna Trayanova). And it’s not just the instrumentation that’s so multi-faceted, because three of those performers (Jacques, Neal, and Hamilton) contribute to the vocals, and they’re varied too.

Moreover, and perhaps most important, is that the results of the Anareta collaboration as revealed on their debut album Fear Not don’t sound like a musical patchwork quilt, with the classical bits stitched in to provide “accents” or “atmosphere” or mere variety, as is often the case with other bands who employ symphonic overlays or classical strings. With Anareta, the self-produced results sound like everyone has a shared love of these two divergent traditions, and an understanding that they have more in common than is usually credited, almost like seeing them as a common language with different dialects. And so the classical instruments aren’t mere role-players here.

To put a finer point on the point, the classical string instruments attack, shoulder to shoulder in an assaulting vanguard with the traditional metal instruments and raw, howling vocals. Frenzied bowing channels fury, and when this happens, the music blazes, backed by rumbling, slugging, and gouging bass lines, clattering and neck-snapping percussion, and abrasive riffage.

There’s profound darkness in the music too, beyond the darkness of rage, which is again something that the band’s amalgam of musical traditions shares (because darkness has been an ever-present companion to human life and all music in its varied forms). The assaulting sensations yield to delirium, and to softer episodes of poignant yearning and haunting sorrow, where the elegant and elaborate classical traditions come more to the fore.

But even there the music is multi-faceted. Tormented screams add intensity, the melodies translate anguish into sound, and limber bass-and-drum maneuvers draw from influences beyond the classical and the metal, enriching the sonic tapestry. And at times the metal instruments in the low end become crushing in their gloomy heaviness.

But still there’s more. Slowly plucked notes glisten and the bowed strings shimmer, creating atmospherics of unearthly mystery. The strings also dance, sometimes like the whirl of exultant dervishes, and sometimes in more measured and even stately ballroom progressions. And the music becomes brilliantly bright in passages that capture resilience and even joy.

You’ll quickly discover that all these sensations we’re trying to describe (and more) aren’t divided among the tracks. Pick any one of them and you’ll discover bow dynamically the band move among these experiences, making each song an elaborate,  head-spinning, and relentlessly mood-changing trip.

And last, but far from least, we have to say that the songs also continually prove to be head-movers, with lots of sharp hooks too, waking up your reptile brain as well as stimulating your higher faculties. And the production creatively uses channel separation among the instruments to make the music even more captivating.

Anareta is an unusual collaboration for other reasons. The performers, it turns out, come from quite a curious collection of musical experiences, including people who have performed Eastern European folk traditions, punk, traditional jazz and brass bands, and second line parading, as well as the more obvious Western classical training. They’ve only been in harness under the Anareta name for a little over four years. What they do next will be well worth waiting for.

As for the wonders of what they’ve already accomplished, we’ll share this comment from the band as the last word before our full streaming premiere of Fear Not:

“Since the beginnings of Anareta we have been on a songwriting journey, striving to weave together our many musical influences and backgrounds. The cross pollination of western classical music with metal, all the while keeping in line with our punk ethos, has been challenging and rewarding. Fear Not represents the culmination of those efforts, and we feel like we have managed to bring something unique into the world. We hope to convey a music that is firmly rooted in metal while also expanding outside the genre to express an array of emotions: beauty and ugliness, tension and resolve, the brutal and the delicate, the grandiose and something entirely approachable.”


Fear Not is being digitally released today, well-timed to coincide with a Bandcamp Friday, where more of your purchase money will go to the band. And if you happen to be within striking distance of New Orleans, Anareta are performing an album release show at the Saturn Bar along with their friends in Slowhole and Cultwife. To get some hint of what what that will be like (plus reptiles), we’re including a video by Beau Patrick Coulon for the album song “Black Snake” right after the links.

P.S. Anareta will have vinyl editions of Fear Not available for sale at tonight’s show, and we presume they’ll find a way to offer the vinyl to fans after tonight as well.



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