Anicon are firmly rooted at the heart of the New York black metal scene. When not drumming with Krallice and Woe, playing bass for Yellow Eyes, snarling away for Trenchgrinder, and playing guitar for Pyrolatrous, this four-piece join forces to produce lengthy black-metal of the technical, melodic variety. Anicon attempt to concoct equal amounts of pessimistic Scandinavian melodic black-metal with the contemporary ‘experimental’ touches of US bands such as Krallice. 2016’s debut record Exegeses was a dark, and winding black metal album. Entropy Mantra intensifies this. Rather than a cryptic, hard-to-define thematic stance, Entropy Mantra revolves around the personal struggles and hardships of its members: a personal, pessimistic mantra.
What’s initially striking is the intense fluctuation of sounds that careens through this album with unforgivable force. Anicon piles heap after heap of detailed, densely layered black-metal sound. The opening three tracks carry a darker, less-unified sound – fragmented and unstable. “Wither and Waste” is the best example of this. Despite its melodic furnishings, the song rifles through unrelenting technical territories like a blind, rabid dog. The whole album fires like a bullet through fleshy passages of melody, through tough sinewy dissonance, into the dark clots of traditional black metal, and back out again, each layer of sound works pleasantly as a single, breathing whole. Despite listening again and again, trying to find fault in the erratic threads of sound, I still find satisfaction in the over-indulgence. As a whole, these opening tracks are very good at best though (“Drowned in the Mirage” being the melodic, machine-gun scattering best); an initial allure wears off slightly. It’s not sterile or flat, but it lacks that emotional flair.
Luckily, from track three to the end, Anicon douse the listener in the glistening melodic kerosene. By this point everything runs a lot smoother. Transitions and build-ups are slick, natural sounding triumphs. Much like the recent Drudkh, melody is king, yet harsh evil pours her spirits in his ear and corrupts the beauty with aplomb. “Names Written in Tar” tumbles into life with bellowing drum rolls and lofty guitar melodies. Like a trickling cosmic waterfall, the excellent bass filters through, teasing into existence a high-riding guitar solo. For its nearly-seven minute run-time, Anicon create a truly captivating melodic journey that’s etched with moments of intense aggression and blast-beat fury. There’s depth and tact too – the faintest trace of acoustic guitars and keyboard ambiance can be heard, but this is layered tenderly, a hidden yet important intensifier of flavor.
“Tarnish on the Emblems of Ardor” continues the melodious aggression, layering sharp guitar melodies with unpredictable technical escapades. Anicon are clearly excellent instrumentalists; in the second half of this album they show they can structure a song, too. The nine-minute “Blood From a Road” is expertly structured. Waking from a sweat-drenched, restless slumber of slow, doom-esque passages, the warrior mounts his horse and commences on a wonderful armored gallop at the six-minute mark. From here it’s no-holds-barred headbanging black ‘n roll: glorious and blood-flecked. With the closer “Paling Terrain” Anicon unites the previous three tracks – it’s nine-minutes of excellent, non-stop music, a satisfying hybrid of Memoria Vetusta III, Microcosmos, and Ygg Hur.
Entropy Mantra is a captivating listen. It’s allure is aided by its deep, clear sounding production – clearly Colin Marston has some sort of mystical influence on how this album sounds. What’s most impressive is the ability Anicon have to reconcile passion and emotion with technical wizardry. Part of their flair and charm comes from the relentless need to sound, sometimes, like they’re improvising off-the-cuff. But, there’s a certain level of restraint here that makes Entropy Mantra an album that I know I’ll be revisiting a lot. There are near-misses, moments stretched out, sections tacked on, but generally I’ll be reciting this mantra often.