Minipony – Ajna Review

I’ve listened to a lot of metal. I’ve listened to a lot of very average metal. I’ve listened to some pretty bad metal. Despite all this, I was simply unprepared for Ajna. You see, Ajna is on another level entirely. True story: Because of Ajna, I could not complete the train journey to work this week. It was halfway through my 5th listen when something cracked. “Why would the Boss Ape force this upon me?” I mused. “Is this a test of my loyalty?” If so, it was a stern examination. The pointless sound effects; the bizarre vocals; the bite-sized, jittery riffs; these all congealed into a force that simply overwhelmed my brain. I could no longer compute, and the only response was to laugh. So, I did. I howled and cackled and coughed up my coffee. People stared and I tried to pull myself together but when “Song For Fiona” started, I lost all composure. The only thing to do was bail off the train and trudge the last mile to work. It was a price I gladly paid. Such is the uniquely awful power of Ajna.

Let’s back up a bit. Ajna is the sophomore album from Ecuadorian trinity, Minipony. Yes, that’s their real name. No, I don’t know where it comes from, and by this point, I’m simply too exhausted to try to find out. Ostensibly technical death metal, their music deals with respect for animals and the effects of violence on the human consciousness. Or something. I say “ostensibly tech death” because there really is very little that is technical about the music Minipony plays. It is an ungodly amalgamation of jittery nu-metal, lead-pipe-rigid djent, groove, and… techno? I dunno. Every time I listen to it, something else unpleasant jumps out. All this is then mashed together with the subtlety of a Holdeneye bowel movement. If it sounds messy, that’s because it is. But hang on, dear reader: we haven’t even scratched the surface of what makes Ajna such a uniquely bad listening experience.

Nothing—and I mean nothing—can prepare you for the ungodly mess that are the vocals on this album. The rapid style shrieks and growls courtesy of Emilia Moncayo sound like a small animal was fed MDMA, slowly strangled, and its death wails fed through an auto-tune with every knob and reverb setting pushed to 11. I understand that she is trying to channel the sounds of animals and nature, but honestly, it feels about as natural as an oil spill. They detract from the music (which, in retrospect, may have been intentional). Her growls are fine, but it’s when she goes high, or yelps (which occurs frequently) that it all falls apart. The apotheosis is the aforementioned “Song For Fiona,” which lurches from falsetto to growl and back again so quickly and bizarrely that I couldn’t stop laughing, which cut short my train trip and made me late. Not only that, but my long-suffering partner later told me that if I ever played it aloud again, I would be sleeping on the couch. Her eyes told me she wasn’t joking.

The song structures are not much better. Almost all the songs begin with a tiny fragment of a riff which is then bludgeoned to death mercilessly beneath the wails. There is no development. No progression. No dynamism. Just repetition. They make the “Baby Shark” song look like a compositional masterpiece. Tracks just lurch forward towards a hysterical cacophony before the band picks a spot at random to end the torment. Even the promising cuts like “Irresponsable” (sic) and “Ajna”—which have the semblance of a riff to build on—ultimately go nowhere and become tiresome very quickly.

I’m going to stop now. Minipony are a small band, and it doesn’t do them any good to continue tearing Ajna apart. If we’re going to focus on the positives, at least this was an original (I guess?) listening experience. I certainly won’t forget this one in a hurry. It’s not often my slightly cynical ears are unable to compute what they’re hearing. But I honestly struggled to get through it. Minipony needs to rethink their entire approach if they’re to be anything other than a punchline. I suspect, it’s too late.

 


Rating: 0.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Subsound Records
Websites: miniponyband.bandcamp.com  |  facebook.com/miniponyofficial
Releases Worldwide: June 24th, 2022

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