Your daily dose of self-loathing, self-pity, and existential dread is brought to you by Austrian nihilists Anomalie. Visions, their third full-length, is 51-minutes of lead-heavy post-black depressiveness that’s intensified by stretches of sparse atmospherics and solemn neo-folk. Like the style of fellow countrymen Harakiri for the Sky, Anomalie’s music has an introspective density that explores all the shades of the blackened rainbow. Their sound fits snugly into the mold created by countless others over the years. Is this an over-comfortable re-hashing that leads to tepidity and blandness, or does this re-shape the mold? There’s just too much music on offer in the world and we must be selective.
Visions is the sound of a Wednesday afternoon in March. It’s a decent record with sporadic moments of excitement, however for the most part the album fades into a lethargic mass that reeks of tedium and blandness. To take you by surprise, the opener “Vision I: Towards the Sun” opens excellently with wispy atmospheric subtleties galore: acoustic guitars ring, a fire burns, and solemn cleans lament; and from the gloom comes ethereal guitar lines and warming melodies that counteract with generic growls and a spoken-word dirge. The atmospheric touches throughout – steel acoustic guitar reverberations, airy folk-interludes, and the throb and pulse of ominous electronics – act as a reasonably memorable hook, however their impact is lessened by their patchy integration into material. A lot of the songs consist of jagged cut-and-paste jobs that peak and build unevenly. When a song seems to be building mood well– as in the third track “Vision III” – the transition to the sole ringing of an acoustic guitar saps the life from the song.
The riffs are mostly forgettable too, bubbling but never exploding. There are flashes of something a bit more interesting at times, of riffs trying to add more depth, tension and variety to the largely monotone and depressive feel of the album. This is particularly the case with the second track, “Visions II – The Wanderer.” Melodic tendrils rise through the dense depression, reaching for breath as its pulled back by the swampy suck and plod of thick drums, deep background noise, and an anchored bass. The problem is, Visions is too consistent with its middle of the road riffs. If you know the genre well you’ve heard these forlorn progressions multiple times before. “Vision V,” as an example, meanders with high-pitched licks that make way for monotone chugs and melancholic chord progressions that, although decent enough, fall flat. Similarly, “Vision VI – White Forest” attempts to merge the cacophonic with airier moments of dark folk. Although decent as standalone moments, they just don’t merge naturally enough for my liking.
The drums expel a rusty bin-lid clang that creates an off-kilter effect that is obtrusive during lulls and moments of quiet. The vocals, too, are off-kilter with their dehydrated forcefulness, merging an over-enunciated Randy Blythe deepness with a dry drawl that lacks the variety and nuance to take songs to the next level. However, the spoken-word vocal passages do capture a melodramatic verve that may either offend or excite you. Personally, these spoken word passages – sometimes merged with female vocals – add a sincere touch to a rather robotic sounding album. This is certainly the case in the rumbling Panopticon-esque track “Visions II” as a dramatic performance, accompanied by melodic string bends, forces its way through the murkiness to talk of the ‘essence of existence’ expiring.
Clean vocal passages, especially during the dark-folk moments, also provide a powerful alternative. If Anomalie explored this side of their sound more – something in the vein of Dornereich, Aquilus, or folk Ulver – they may find a more standout sound. Final track “One with the Soil” retains a post-black, depressive edge whilst being driven by a folky, Pagan sound that includes well-placed acoustic transitions, more subtle and measured drumming, and dreamy female vocals. It’s one of the few songs that works because it relies a lot more on creating an organic atmosphere that doesn’t seem stitched together from a multitude of disparate materials.
Visions just falls short. There are too many other bands who play a similar style; we’re simultaneously blessed and corrupted by having too many choices and options. This may have missed the mark for me, but there may be, as with all our reviews, something that excites you.