Black Anvil – Regenesis Review

In his review of Black Anvil’s 2017 album, As Was, Mark Z. noted that despite possessing a rock-solid discography, the band was a perpetual “almost there” of the USBM scene. In the 5 years since then, not much has changed. The band has remained mostly underground, but a recent shift in record label to Season of Mist, and a coveted spot on the Cannibal Corpse North American tour, has suggested a shift towards widespread recognition. Are the perpetual bridesmaids of American BM about to have their own wedding?

USBM often reflects the chaotic (and contradictory) country that births it. This is especially true of bands from New York. But where Imperial Triumphant peek at the glitz and glamor and use avant-garde chaos to reflect the darkness beneath the surface, Black Anvil proudly crawl with the grimy, the dirty, and the downtrodden. This is black metal borne of hardcore and fury, but with a gradual refinement over the years. Beginning with As Was, and further explored on 2019’s Miles EP, however, there has been a shift towards cleaner vocals and a more eclectic sonic palette. Regenesis is a further evolution of this; a band continuing to shift their sound, with more cleans, more melodicism, slower tracks, and experimentation without jumping the shark.

Regenesis is, without doubt, Black Anvil’s most melodic, most diverse record to date. There’s death metal, gothic metal, bits of hardcore and industrial, and traditional black metal all rolled into one. For the most part, it’s well handled, but Black Anvil still hit hardest when they do simple, brutal black metal. “In Two” and “29” sound great because the band infuses its unique sound into the traditional black metal template, creating songs that are both compelling and familiar at the same time. “Echoes Tapestry” is another highlight, which infuses melody and hardcore in a splendid cocktail that goes down extremely smoothly. Had the album been full of these, we would have something noteworthy on our hands.

Regenesis is weird because despite the hard riffage, the experimentation, the melodicism, it just doesn’t hit as hard as it should. Untangling why is quite challenging. Firstly, at 50 minutes, like its predecessors, it’s still too long, and you feel the length. Too many tracks meander along at a mid-pace tempo but don’t go anywhere interesting. The middle section, with “Silver Steele” and “NYC Nightmares,” is the most serious offender, but even the good songs are sometimes weighed down with pointless detours that distract (“Grant Us His Love” has a weird, brass-based outro after a forced harmonization that grates the eardrums). The other major problem is that all this refinement in sound has smoothed away the spiky edges that made Black Anvil interesting in the first place. I understand where the band is going, but the overly clean sound, and harmonized vocals, detracted from the grit and grime that used to lend their sound a distinctive edge.

Black Anvil are unapologetic about the direction they are taking their music, and I respect them for that. They have managed to tap into a creative vein that lends their music a distinctly New York-flavored tinge, while being simultaneously expansive and creative. If the cost is a loss of bite, the band seems willing to pay it. It’s really the execution that lets them down, however. Too much bloat, too many sound effects, not enough focus on the aspects that made them unique in the first place. Regenesis has its moments, but I suspect it won’t linger for too long in the minds of most. As Was was competent and progressive. Regenesis is competent and progressive. For a band as talented as Black Anvil, “competent and progressive” is, ultimately, a little disappointing.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 4th, 2022

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