Ænigmatum – Deconsecrate Review

I’ve had my eye on Ænigmatum for two months now. As with most things that cross my path on the river Bandcamp’s neverending stream, the colorful but still fleshy and spiny cover for the Portland, Oregon quartet’s sophomore effort Deconsecrate caught my attention—and, thankfully, so did the advance track. It was a twisty, gnarled hurricane of blackened death metal from a label I normally associate with more knuckle-dragging fare. Needless to say, Ænigmatum seemed poised to deliver something fresh in a summer that’s been remarkably dry for this sponge. Let’s see what I’ve absorbed in the two weeks spent with Deconsecrate, shall we?

From the start, Ænigmatum confirm that my instincts with rooting out quality metal remains finely honed as ever. Deconsecrate is a clinic in genre-bending riffs, mind-shredding solos and bone-breaking groove. Blackened death metal makes up the backbone of the group’s sound, but this new record spans the gamut of metallic subsets up to and including melodic black metal, progressive metal, and grind. Some of that comprehensive profile comes in the form of a sweet riff or five (name a song, any song, as long as it’s not mid-album interlude “Floods Within a Splintered Core”), while at other times it presents more clearly in multifaceted kit acrobatics or shimmering guitar leads. Fretless bass winds through everything like a snake in bloodstained grass, clearly defined even amidst a whirlwind of crashing cymbals and thundering toms. Additionally, unlike many extreme progressive metal outfits, at no point whatsoever do Ænigmatum sacrifice momentum or substance in the name of style. In short, Deconsecrate is explosive, frenetic and complex yet still wonderfully accessible and sure-footed.

My main piece of evidence to that last point is this: if you choose a song at random (again, excluding the intermission) you will find at least one gigantic riff, sparkling tremolo lead, or pummeling pattern that offers oodles of grip for your grimy, disgusting minds. “Forged from Bedlam” completely hooks you in its fledgling moments as it attacks with a sick drum fill, followed in short order by an even sicker main riff. Late album highlights “Larker, Sanguine Phantom” and “Despot of Amorphic Dominions” rip ass in violent ways—the former with crippling speed and tonnage, the latter with infectious harmonies dripping with emotion. “Undaunted Hereafter” and “Fracturing Proclivity” both manage to meld black, death and grind with incredible fluidity, yet the more impressive feat is that Ænigmatum combined those elements such that their unique flavor solidifies the band’s distinct identity rather than diluting it.

The fearless variety and attention to detail in Deconsecrate’s songwriting makes the album an absolute joy to listen to, but there’s still something that holds it back from higher scores. In most ways, the adventurous nature of the record sets Ænigmatum apart from their peers, but at the same time I found it difficult to highlight Deconsecrate’s best moments, mainly because the band throw so many cool segments into each song that recalling which happened when proved a challenge. In other words, the exuberance for the extreme on display creates an immensely engaging experience while also rendering it disjointed. The instrumental interlude arbitrarily slapped in the middle of the runtime only exacerbates this issue, splitting the record into two halves that I don’t consider distinct enough to warrant a buffer.

If this record’s biggest flaw should be that it’s just a bit spasmodic, then Ænigmatum have very little to worry about. Deconsecrate shows a band with a distinct, if not entirely unique, character. They are unafraid to take risks in the name of injecting a massive dose of excitement and verve into their songwriting, an approach which I applaud wholeheartedly. For the most part, those risks paid big dividends. With just a little more focus applied to bolstering their next album’s overall flow and consistency, I can’t imagine that much could impede Ænigmatum’s ascent into my year-end lineup.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Websites: facebook.com/Ænigmatum | aenigmatum.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: August 13th, 2021

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