Hey, you! Yeah, that’s right, I know you and your ilk, only scurrying out of your hatch for a new record if the music is heavier than a dying panda reading Sartre and the album is only available in limited release as sheet music stapled to the bathroom door in an abandoned hospital. Well, you better slink back to your cobweb-ridden hovel as Life-Related Symptoms by Anewrage is none of those things. In fact, with its clean, hook-ridden vocals and grungeternative instrumentation, it barely qualifies as metal at all. Still, AngryMetalGuy.com is a broad church, willing to embrace all manner of miscreants within our ample bosom. If Life-Related Symptoms isn’t strictly-speaking a brutal head-on collision of steel and entrails then at least it’s still a laudable sonic diversion, right?
As amusing as it would be to keep you on tenterhooks I’ll put you out of your misery and declare that Anewrage have delivered a fairly solid album in Life-Related Symptoms, albeit not one teeming with explosive power. The music is slick, admirably performed and brimming with professionalism. That this is the band’s second full-length release speaks volumes about the talent on display. A broad categorization would place these Italians alongside alternative/grunge groups like Soundgarden and Horsehead, only with a gentler tilt towards popular acceptance. “Upside Down” is a smooth, radio-friendly opener, overflowing with nods to Alice in Chains and the odd tip-of-the-hat to Bon Jovi with its country-rock guitar leanings. There are few rough edges on the album; the music, for the most part, is unfailingly agreeable, a pleasant distraction from life’s incessant hurdy-gurdy.
There is no doubt in my mind that this can be attributed to the incredibly impressive pipes of vocalist Axel Capurro. The man possesses a slightly grainy tone but it is commendably malleable and capable of a wide range. Underscored by satisfyingly substantive chords, “Tomorrow” displays Capurro in full-flight, his crystal clear voice carrying the song from verse-to-chorus and back again, mixing the best elements of Layne Staley and Silverchair’s Daniel Johns. The vocals resonate and get under your skin like a home-sick skeleton. “Outside” is a sombre, haunting cut that trades power for restraint, Capurro keeping things achingly simple with his emotionally charged but delicately low-key utterances. It would be reductive to say that the vocals are the dominant element of Life-Related Symptoms because they’re so much more than that, a critical, all-consuming binding agent. Somebody get Copernicus on the line because everything revolves around Capurro and not the sun.
You can have too much of a good thing, however, as after a while, the overwrought, plaintive singing drifts from heart-clutchingly emotive to outright sappy. Ultimately this is a consequence of the overly mainstream bent of the music, a focus that leaves everything humming along in mid-gear while preventing the songs from developing real weight and impact. There are flashes of ire and spittle, like the off-kilter “Clockwork Therapy” or the surprising volatile breakdown of hoarse vocals and crushing riffs in “Evolution Circle” that’s more akin to something God Forbid would belt out but these are the exception rather than the rule. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a bad song on the album, but as it spans thirteen tracks the lack of bite invites numbness with increased exposure.
Anewrage are an enviously talented mob of musicians, possessed of a sound engineered to propel them towards bigger and better things. The music here is catchy, imminently listenable and polished to a reflective sheen, but not adventurous. It’s certainly enjoyable just not the sort of thing one would hear blaring from a Viking longboat as it descends upon a seaside hamlet. If you’re looking for the sort of eardrum-splitting filth designed wholly and solely to ruin an interfaith picnic then you best take your steel-capped boots elsewhere. For the rest of you seeking a distraction from Satan’s playlist, Life-Related Symptoms certainly makes for a fine bedfellow.