2004, Mighty Music
From what is admittedly an original lyrical subject or main concept, the words of their own fans or interested parties who were either very ill or terminal disease cases (mostly cancer), Anasarca have built the framework of a well-written, modern death metal album. I say "modern" because at this time the band have forged for themselves a style of playing metal that seems to evoke many different subgenres in the extreme metal canon, without directly laying claim to or following the didactic precepts of any single pigeonholing minor movement. Yes this is a death metal record, that is unmistakable, but Anasarca manage to blend into their raw-edged, propulsive, caustic riffing oblique references to grindcore, black metal, and even (at some points) earlier versions of the art form such as thrash. The production style, in itself, carries with it the timbre of older thrash metal recordings, the emphasis there being on percussive repetition and an almost militaristic, disciplined focus on the efficiency and/or efficacy of rhythm guitar writing. One should also notice the strategic placement of tremolo-picked runs and the way this album reclaims that older style of death metal riffing, moving it back into the cadenced forms of percussive grind away from the palm-muting phobic black metal guitarists, who have dominated that variety of melody for the last decade. The main "mosquito riff" from "Anopheles", the fourth song here, is a good example, appearing at the first break straight off at 0:42 in the left channel and then echoed in the right. It is set up with expert dramatic flourish by the rudimentary rhythms that open the song and bracket it on both sides. In terms of black metal influences, the first notice I took of that was the primary riff on the first song, "Hasten Death", opening the album - in its speed and sliding dexterity it seems to label Anasarca as post-Immortal, but that might just be a coincidence, another facet of the use of tremolo-picking alternatives that I noted above.
Ultimately, however, what makes this worth playing, for me, is just the skill and enthusiasm which marks the writing and the sheer professionalism of the recording. The drumming is fluid, powerful, and practiced - the cymbal additions are noted and appreciated. The guitar playing is crisp, well-defined, and effortlessly walks the line between pounding, muscular rhythms, more ethereal high speed minor melodies, and the grand structural riffs which usually combine both into signature song anchor points that more than adequately fill and support each individual composition with their strong identities. The recording is, in itself, clear, puissant, flexible, colorful, and (I think) captures this band at their best, it is - as remarked above and as detailed in at least one interview this band has done - not the "average" death metal style of production. I like the way that the production focuses mainly on the vocals, first rhythm guitar, and drumming (the core of this band, as they only have two members at this point), leaving the balanced properties of the mix to bring out the echoing harmonies of a second guitar (which appears at times) and the bass, and creating as the core of the album's sound the way in which the percussion and rhythm guitar are interacting and supporting each other. Excellent.
An expert, well-written, exquisitely crafted slice of prime contemporary death metal.