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Anhedonist : Netherwards

Anhedonist breathe new life into the stagnating Death Doom genre with their uncompromising debut album.



Recently I have pondered how the Death Doom genre has been stagnating over the past few years. The first half of the 2000s had still offered a few excellent albums which prove to be classics to this day, but ever since, most of the masters of the genre have either split up or changed their style into something I cannot enjoy anymore. Newer bands have predominantly opted for a mellow and generic approach with little to no emotional depth and stylistic integrity. I had already begun giving up on the genre when Netherwards was announced, the first full-length by Anhedonist whose demo The Drear had been a great sign of hope two years ago.

The US-band plays Death Doom the old way without compromises, reminding the listener of bands like Dusk and above all Disembowelment: Plain crushing misery complete with downtuned guitars, guttural growls and tortured shrieks, a few instances of low cheerless chanting, blastbeat outburst, occasional bleak clean guitar lines – you get the picture. There are no atmospheric elements, no additional instruments, no interludes, no romantic melodies – and there is not the slightest sign of experimentation, either. Therefore, we can get one thing straight: This album does not break any new ground whatsoever. While such a statement may be a point of criticism in most cases, it is one of the strongest arguments for the album in question here: Anhedonist take Death Doom back to its primary roots and serve well to remind us of what the genre was all about in the first place. Even the foggy and raw production has a pleasant 90s feel to it with.

Despite its very traditionalist approach, Netherwards is still a child of its time which does not neglect any and all later developments. Some of the twin guitar harmonies call to mind the best works of younger bands, most notably Ataraxie and Imindain, and the same is true for the shrieked vocals. Luckily, the Americans recombine all of these familiar elements in their own way and thus establish an identity which is unique to the band, even if their influences are always immediately audible. But what really makes this album outstanding is the songwriting: Every riff and tempo change seems right in place, the instruments are cleverly arranged and the vocal styles go perfectly with the rest of the music. It is extremely rare these days that bands manage to come up with such a well-crafted recapitulation of old days without sounding dull and uninspired. Anhedonist do not rest on the laurels of Death Doom’s paragons – they have something to say themselves and use the framework of the genre to convey their own ideas. In this sense, their debut is a model example of how it should be done and therefore an important – maybe even essential – release which no Death Doom fan should miss out on. This being said, it is not a stellar album which raises the bar for other bands and there is still room for improvement, but these guys are getting there and have already left the better part of the contemporary scene far behind.

On top of it all, the album comes with a fantastic and interesting artwork (not just the cover image, but the entire booklet – vinyl fans will be all the more pleased) which steers clear of the stereotypical Photoshop aesthetics which have been dominating the dark music scene for far too long now. The lyrics, too, support the overall impression of sincere and uncompromising misery and seem to ridicule the trend of romanticised melancholia, the revelling in sensations of mourning and yearning. As the title suggests, Netherwards is nihilism put into music – and isn’t this the essence of Death Doom, only that most fans and bands seem to have forgotten about that? One flaw remains, though: The forty minutes leave you starving for more. We can only hope that Anhedonist will not dissolve as quickly as most good bands in the genre.


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Reviewer's rating: Unrated

Information

Tracklist :
1. Saturnine
2. Estrangement
3. Carne Liberatus
4. Inherent Opprobrium

Duration : Approx. 40 minutes

Visit the Anhedonist bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-06-30 by Dominik Sonders
3rdIRex
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