Saturday, May 15, 2010

Anwyl - Bloody Mary

Anwyl - Bloody Mary
2000, Non Compos Mentis Records

I had the good fortune about five years ago to be visiting in Wichita, Kansas during the winter season - I say 'good' fortune because it snows in Kansas - a lot in certain years - and coming from Texas (where I have lived my whole life except for the first four years), I have that romantic vision and respect for snowy landscapes usually reserved for people who have never experienced the grip of a real winter. That season it snowed tremendously, and I would sit inside at night and watch the ice and white drifts circle through the dimly lit streets. I was in an old house in an even older neighborhood, right downtown in Wichita's quaint 'historic' district, and the atmosphere, locale, and situation could not have been more perfect to inspire lucid dreaming of the darkest nature - I could easily imagine, perched as I was in a shadowed room looking over the roofs of houses that I was convinced had seen the last age turn, that I was in the nineteenth century, watching the black streets and lonely alleys that had hidden here, away from the world, for decades upon decades. Walking at night alone through the biting winds and swirling waves of snow, I imagined myself in a desolate landscape: the world covered in ash, nuclear winter upon us, the earth slowing to a standstill...

Anwyl are from Kansas, a state that is usually not thought of when the words 'American black metal' are mentioned, but that is not of any consequence. I could go on here to try to summon at length the dangerous boredom that infects people in Kansas - it's a vacuous world with little in the way of outside sources for enthusiasm or entertainment possibilities, and I imagine it's the ideal location for concentration on the internal world or personal art - but what's the use, really? It's enough to know that Kansas is the source of a great deal of frustration on the part of musicians, and bands like this are undeniably the result. At least this is what I think...

Anwyl writes very angry, very bitter music, a form of thrashing black metal filled with aural desolation to match the winds that roar through their state in winter - a raw, unfinished, abrading sound that tears and scours chaotically as it stalks through its homicidal measures. The production on this six song debut CD is excellent, just what I like in black metal: I am not sure what they used to record it (maybe an eight-track?), but it works for me, leaving nothing to the imagination - it sounds like it was recorded live, on a couple of mikes, right in front of the band. Consequently the drums are not as loud as the guitars, but they are loud enough. The most interesting thing this production offers is that it forces you, the listener, to pay a great deal of attention to what's going on beneath the overwhelming waves of cacophonous distortion. Once your pierce through that first layer of sound, a great amount of melodic talent is revealed to you as Anwyl rail and whirl through these compositions at a rabid pace. Referencing, at some points, something of a Swedish influence (mainly Dissection, I would guess) with abstract tremelo-picked melodies, Anwyl meld those elements with the rough-edged blasting percussiveness and chaotic rhythms of American/Canadian black metal (think Blasphemy, but with more skill and inventiveness) to form a lethal new strain of melodicism...

Of special interest here is the drumming, which is never less than impressive, as skinsman Mikai slashes violently through each song like he's trying to reach the end before the other members of the band, constantly adding in cymbal touches, rapid fills, and spinning around his battered kit like a man possessed. His energy and Dionysian creativity adds an element of rhythmic intensity to this material that moves it a few notches above the norm, and I admire his drive and technique. The most spectacular part of this music for me, though, is the guitar playing - both the twin-g interplay of Olc and Krom and their wavering harmonizing, where the six-strings speed from blasphemic licks and hyperspeed runs to stirring downstrokes, all effortlessly, all with an excellent sense of the song's progression, the riffs blending into each other seamlessly - and the manic wah-drenched soloing, which erupts in scattered bursts of incendiary color, especially in the Azagthothian additions on 'Bloody Mary', where the lead guitar moans and shrieks insanely, as if it was being tortured...excellent.

I believe this band is at the forefront of the black metal movement in this country, and it amazes me that they have not been getting as much press as some of the other groups. There are very few bands here that could match this collection of manic blasphemers...I enjoyed this release immensely and I know it will remain in my CD player for some time to come - hopefully I will hear more from this band soon...

Highly Recommended.