Black metal has become a genre full of experimentation and different expectations. It is one that has grown and changed significantly since its formation in the late 1980’s and its formidable, as well as more dominant and infamous, reputation and bands that came out in the early 1990’s.
Back then it was all about the tremolo picking, the blast beats, the love of Satan or of Viking lore, wearing corpse paint, Satan and screeching his praises, and the most lo-fi production this side of a back alley trash can. Did I forget to mention the love of Satan?
Nowadays, black metal has become a major force in the extreme genre, with many bands now putting their mark on the genre and opening up new and exciting things. Bands such as Wolves in the Throne Room, Weaklings, Deafheaven, Nachtmystium (as much as Blake Judd is a fuck), and Oathbreaker ( “Rheia” specifically) showing that there is more to the genre than its usual tropes. And now to add Black Anvil to that with their new album “As Was”.
Black Anvil is one of the major bands from New York City in the genre of black metal. Whereas Krallice, also from NYC, are more akin to the busyness and suffocation of the person in a concrete prison with millions of others, Black Anvil is the anger and hatred of those millions around you while stuck in the concrete prison. The band is comprised of Paul Delaney, Raeph Glicken, Jeremy Sosville (a local from my area of northern New York, specifically of Massena), and Travis Bacon.
The album is just pummeling song after pummeling song. “As An Elder Learns Anew,” which starts with a haunting riff before and keeps it mid-tempo before kicking it in to gear. The track “As Was”, which slows things down a but continues the ideal sound of haunting notes and melody.
“May her Wrath Be Just” and “Nothing” are the two most blast beaty songs, but full of kill and very little, if any, filler, with raging licks and riffs and drumming goodness.
“On Forgotten Ways” is an 8 minute epic showing no mercy. The instrumental “The Way Of All Flesh” create an awesome deluge of noise, allowing breathing room. The 9 minute track “Two Keys: Here’s The Lock” is awesome in general. The closer, “Ultra,” which has everything from the last songs thrown in a blender and put on for roughly 6 minutes.
This album marks a nice shift, displaying a more rock vibe, particularly with a nod to 70’s and 80’s rock, progressive rock, and metal. The songs display a unique type of songwriting that isnt just in the black metal realm of guitar, but encompasses song writing and craft that can be found in the music from yesteryear. This seemingly odd combination of styles wouldn’t seem to work, but for the love of fuck it does. And it works well, creating a record that has the ability to stick with you through memorable writing, catchy vocal harmonies, and awesome style. It is a nice melding of styles that sticks to your ribs, and isn’t annoying as when a band sticks purely to a genre, allowing the songs to flow and allowing there to be substance AND variety. (Personal note: not once was I bored or annoyed with this album).
This album isnt for “purists” nor is it going to change hearts and minds about black metal, and yeah I found one thing annoying (the production was a little off it seemed on my copy that I reviewed). But it is a good album, well played, well written, and well done. It is a step forward for the band and a good step for the genre in general, with its song writing and the musicianship, it makes me, as a reviewer, look forward to see where this band continues to go. Until then, this will sate my appetite.
Release Date: January 13, 2017
Label: Relapse Records
Favorite tracks: “Ultra” and “Nothing”
For fans of: Wolves in the Throne Room, Watain, black metal in general.