Anareta – Fear Not Review

Somethin’s a brewin’ down in Nawlins, and it’s not just the festering street sludge that remains from this year’s Mardi Gras bash that has gone and passed. In fact, despite the region’s historical connection to the genre of that festering namesake, Anareta hasn’t an ounce of that groove and vitriol-fueled sound in their DNA—Fear Not comes with its own determined sense of dread and horror, though. You see, this sextet of stringed things and a drum kit play a form of gloomy and rollicking blackened metal led by the screech and saunter of a chamber orchestra trio—cello, viola, and violin fill the air of this grief-laden venture. When the Saints come marchin’ in, Anareta chooses to slither and snarl.

Pulsing with the minstrel whimsy and shrieking fervor of an early Ludicra, Anareta weaves the structure and delicate triumph of classical chamber music with the rough and tumble raucous of American black metal. The atypical instruments that Anareta features continue to gain popularity in the fringes of heavy metal in many forms, with recent successful examples including AMG-championed acts like Tribunal and Ashenspire; however, neither of these acts feel like chamber music first. Heard in isolation, the emotional creaking introduction of “Frozen Wasteland” or downcast serenade that pries open “Locality” hardly render as metal at all. But just behind these depressive ballroom saunters rests a hollowed-out guitar twang, low-rent snare plonk, and full-abandon black metal shriek that thrust each piece straight into a fury that establishes firmly Anaretaߵs trv intention. And as a result, Fear Not lands miles ahead of the bloated scene of one-man acts who choose to worship second-wave black metal to seemingly no end.

As such, with neither a blast beat nor endless tremolo phrase, Anareta builds exciting compositions with classically established structures and a modern melodic sensibility. Each piece begins establishing a motif that warps and whips throughout its run, all to a recalling and modulated close—yes, you can see the journey but this troupe makes it all worth the while. Breakdowns and guitar solos become pizzicato bridges (“Frozen Wasteland,” “Omnicide”) and whirlwinds of stringed fury (“Locality”). Sarah Jacques’ throat sacrifice grows ever more restless with each passing phrase—tensions always rising yet always finding resolve. Sam Hollier’s lyrical cello work, recalling the longing expression of Jackie Perez Gratz (Grayceon, Giant Squid), lays a brooding foundation for the malaise of “Locality” and soul-searching of “Black Snake.” But though these performances deserve accolades, no one member of Anareta ever feels to be indulging, servicing each piece with restraint and emotion.

And it’s that emotion that helps Fear Not largely power through its biggest flaw—Anareta makes some production choices to embolden the string-led nature of their attack that take some getting used to. Unlike a modern string quartet act,1 the string section here has to power through traditionally loud accompaniment. Most notably, the hi-hat and crashier splashier cymbal sections ring with a shrill sibilance, particularly when other elements crowd the soundstage (“Omnicide,” “Unforgiving Sun,” the final moments of “Black Snake”). Black metal, traditionally, has been a welcome host to such sounds, so if you’ve ever enjoyed the scrappy, lo-fi charm of Sigh classics like Imaginary Sonicscape or Gallows Gallery, then Fear Not will leave you more charmed than harmed, even possibly feeling familiar. And, again, these choices do help to highlight the power that the well-recorded acoustic string instruments possess; power that you can absolutely feel in the refrains of “Frozen Wasteland” or the nimble tumble of “Descent.” Sure, it can get a bit rough, but I never reach for the skip button.

Alas, Anareta finds peace in tumult through expressive harmonies—the sudden union of strings, the layered chorale chants, the eerie guitar doubling of violin voices—and there’s not a band out there that sounds like this. Fear Not supplies a narrative grime and entrancing allure that can only exist in this unique chamber music black metal hybrid. Brazenly wearing a gothic character and romantic attitude, the six solemn offerings composed for this stunning debut keep me coming back to unpack each voice as they land in unison, in divergence, in a dark beating heart. With Anareta as the host of this Gala for the Gauche, there’s no dress code—only great music.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: ~260 kb/s VBR mp3
Label: Self Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 8th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. Check Justina Jaruševičiūtėߵs 2021 release for a very good example.
« »