Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anasarca - Godmachine

Anasarca - Godmachine
1998, Repulse Records

This album first caught my attention at least a year ago when I stumbled upon it in a local record store, and after listening to a few tracks, skipping around at random, I decided that it just wasn't what I was looking for at the time, although I did mark it down in my memory as being something worth pursuing later. Having just acquired the promo version through the internet, I decided it was high time for me to record my thoughts on this interesting slice of death metal.

The first thing that you will probably notice about this LP, and the characteristic that I think this German band is mainly known for (the bio actually mentions it, a rarity) is their blending of two distinctive styles of death metal: the brutal grinding American version and the more melodic, melancholy (read: early-'90s Swedish) European form of the same. At times Anasarca see fit to combine the two styles in the same song or riff passages (their better work is in this format: the title track, 'The Weird Ways', "Like Thorns in My Head'), or they split the two influences when writing separate songs - the third track, 'The Beast' with its pulverizing opening riff, is a little gem of Cannibal Corpse-influenced nastiness, although even this song, to be fair, has its moments of melodic riffing. Probably the best song on this album, or at least the most representative of this band's potential, is the ninth, 'Corrosive Eclipse' - mainly because it mixes all of the elements of their sound together and makes these (sometimes) conflicting influences flow smoothly. Starting from a slow moody opening and advancing forward into grindcore speeds (complete with clanking, clicking gorecore drums - a victim of the poor rhythm sound on this record) and then back into the mid-paced choruses, this song stresses Anasarca's unwillingness to rely on one strict formula or approach.

Because Repulse Records is mainly known for spreading down-tuned caustic second-tier (name one Repulse band that doesn't sound like some other more famous group!) Suffocation-influenced (I use the word 'influenced', once again, rather hesitantly) death metal all over the world from strange points of origin, this band sticks out somewhat on their roster. Normally I probably wouldn't ever see music like this slip under my radar, but the truth is that I like this album for reasons that I can not fully explain. There are rare moments of transcendence on this album - the song 'Like Thorns in My Head', already mentioned above, for example, contains some nice epic riffing (the melody starting at 1:55 is received very well by these ears even after getting the Napalm Death-blast treatment as it tears along at light speed) - and those moments, at least, set this band apart because there are just so many albums out there now which have absolutely no highlights at all. Where are all those 'epic' moments of transcendent metal that we used to have only a decade ago? Whatever happened to songwriting skill, the desire to develop these same skills, and songs that took the listener somewhere else other than right back into his own sad reality? My main complaint about the majority of death metal bands in the last 5-6 years is that their music refers to absolutely nothing outside of their own sterile existence. Music forced out of a sense of absolute sterility or boredom - music that rises against its own will, devoid of feeling or melodic inspiration, can never be truly transcendent even through it may seem to reference small moments of ideality or infinity...or inspiration...in the meantime we have literally hundreds of bands across the world, permeating almost every scene and crossing all national and/or racial barriers, that all sound exactly the same. Death metal, hear my death call...is it any wonder the retro movement has gained such a following?