posted on 3/2011 By:
Feeding off the fairly positive acclaim they received for their 2006 Cognitive Dissonance EP, San Francisco’s Anomalous returns some five years later with their first full-length release on Minnesota’s own, Brutal Bands. Continuing to cultivate their Meshuggah-meets-Cynic style of progressive tech-death by adding an even greater level of extreme complexity to it, OHMnivalent is an album of dizzying madness and chaotic beauty that should easily elevate the group from merely being promising pretenders to convincing contenders.
Replacing the uninspiring programmed drums from the EP with a proven human drum machine, new percussionist Marco Pitruzella is one of the main reasons for this potential escalation in stature. His technical ability not only does well to help drive this machine of never-ending time signature shifts, but his creativity in the overall scheme of the group’s revitalized sound has raised the bar for the guitar work, which has grown exponentially since Cognitive Dissonance. With swirling legato runs layered on top of a plethora of start-stop riffing intended to literally mow fuckers down, this is an intricately designed sonic assault that should appease any and all aspiring guitar players out there, or it might just make you want to quit.
With nine total tracks spanning roughly 55 minutes, Anomalous has tossed the book of traditional song structuring right out the fuckin’ window, as this album is indeed one long song of endless twists and turns. Sure the album is broken up into the nine pieces, but don’t expect to hear much repetition going on in any of the songs as the band burns through one section to the next leaving nothing but ashes in their wake. Right from the brief cyber-like intro followed by the thunderous rumble of “Premateria (A Fire Birth)” slowly fading in, the throttling of the senses begins and rarely relents. There's no shortage of guitar soloing throughout the album, and “The Seraphim Veil” contains one of the finer ones at the 2:00 mark, followed by another solo over a cleanly strummed part that transitions into the song’s superb 30-second-plus outro of lumbering harmonized octaves.
“Bicruciforms: The Eternal Return” trudges along with a progressive stomp near the midway point and is an early favorite of mine, and its synth-tinged ending flows into the battering ram intro of the album’s title-track. The last four minutes of “OHMnivalent” followed by the eight-minute instrumental piece, “Mitosis”, are completely vocal-less, allowing the guitars to take the reigns for the most part. The latter track is so unlike the rest of the album with some spacey feedback leading into some clean chords, more melodic layering and a superb use of dynamics complete with mood-building drum fills accentuating the piece. At this point, you completely forget you’re even listening to a tech-death album, and it’s a welcome intermission allowing you to catch your breath a bit. After lulling the listener into a near comatose state, the machine gun stuttering riffage of “Panacea” and the album's most brutal track “Hypnagogue” get the blood flowing again. By the time “Demiurge” slays your ears, the album’s final cut, “Binary Resurrection”, has a stylish and moody interlude in the middle, rounded out by yet another splendid guitar solo.
With all that said, what I do find a bit underwhelming is the production of the drums. While I know it’s a staple of the genre, the kick drum is too clicky, the toms sound flat as hell and the snare is dead a lot of the time, whereas it should pop all of the time. Part of this problem has a lot to do with the guitars being mixed so loudly, resulting in them completely drowning out the snare at times, and quite honestly their dominating presence overshadows the vocals, which unfortunately don’t lead the listener as they should. With such great emphasis put on the lyrics (which are terrific, by the way), it’s a shame that they aren’t as up-front in the mix as they should be.
Even still, my nitpickiness aside, I can’t help but recommend this beast to any and all fans of top-notch tech-death. This is an album for those who want heavy metal that makes them have to think; it’s an album designed for folks who prefer not to have things laid out all nice and pretty for them. I know the tech-death genre has become stagnant of late, and while this may not be the album that injects life back into it, OHMnivalent is truly an album that will rank up there with some of the genre’s best come years end. One thing I know for certain is that it’s made a strong case to appear in this guy’s top ten.
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