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Anatomia : Decaying in Obscurity

Whilst still very firmly rooted in old-school Death Metal, Anatomia's new effort gives more than enough headroom to genuine Death/Doom.

Veteran Japanese trio Anatomia, their ten-year history starting where previous band Transgressor left off, have a fairly full catalogue of demos, splits and EPs but very few actual full-length albums. 'Decaying In Obscurity', excluding a live release in 2009, is, in fact, only the second of that breed. However, not having personally encountered any of their previous works, it was necessary to consult the internet for some points of reference, from which the oft-repeated conclusion is that they sound an awful lot like Autopsy, with slightly different vocals. On the strength of the available YouTube videos (including a bizarrely inappropriate cover of Judas Priest's annoyingly soulless 'Turbo Lover'), it was also an accurate one.

Not quite so accurate now, though...

Whilst still very firmly rooted in old-school technical Death Metal, 'Decaying In Obscurity' gives more than enough headroom to clear Doom, or at the very least Proto-Doom, elements that it moves out of the shadow of Autopsy and into genuine Death/Doom territory. It's not just the slower pace, or the outright heaviness, that does it: it's the whole twisted, fuzzed and distorted vibe pervading the album, putting a new twist on their traditional subject matter of flirtations with the sickest of gory vignettes.

'Flirtations' might seem an odd choice of word, under the circumstances, but it's actually at the heart of why I'm going to get my own opinion out of the way early on. And that is, well, I really don't like this very much. Gore - in the typical sense of first-person cannibalism, dismemberment and necrophilia - has always seemed like the laziest of common denominators: the ultimate in manufactured shock, horror and attempted outrageousness. It's simply fake: something that neither the musicians really experience, nor the listeners really empathise with (actual cannibals and necrophiliacs, obviously, excepted). And, when not actually working in that vein, they seem completely lost, as in rather feeble efforts like "Doomed life...Of nothingness...Into obscurity..." ('Obscurity'). As such, the lyrical content is - to me, at least - puerile rather than repulsive or terrifying, and therefore fails to engage me at any level.

Paradoxically, if I weren't reviewing this, but simply listening to it, that wouldn't be as much of an issue. It's well-nigh impossible to make out any of the growled vocals: without actively seeking out the lyrics I'd perhaps be none the wiser and more able to take the album on pure musical merits. Although, that said, this currently vinyl-only release comes in a 'crushed spleen' colour option, with full-gloss pictures of human intestines decorating the cover...so perhaps not!

Anyway, objectively, that seems like a bit of a shame, because there is a fair bit of musical merit involved. The intention is clearly to create an oppressively heavy and dark sound to match the imagery, in which case you would have to admit a largely unqualified success. The basic power trio setup of guitar, bass and drums pound through ten quite varied tracks filled with growls, shrieks and other bizarrely disturbing noises in an enthusiastically fervent lo-fi mid-90s way. Except that the superficially sometimes-dominant Thrash-Death batterings (such as opener 'Cadaveric Dissection'), or slowed-down Proto-Doom heaviness ('Eternally Forgotten') are far from the whole story.

You could make a case for citing some Stoner Doom in the overall bass-heavy sound, dominated by overdriven and massively distorted guitar effects, would probably have to mention a certain Industrial presence (as in the echoingly metallic sound of 'Obscurity') and should note that there are even odd moments of atmospherically-deployed keyboards (instrumental 'Moans From Beyond The Grave' actually sounds like a typical Funeral Doom album closer).

So it's by no means simple to classify the exact direction Anatomia have decided to take: it sounds as if they have elected to experiment with all sorts of possibilities in amongst the meat of some more familiar territory. That's something I'd have to applaud as a big step forward, and one that genuinely demonstrates future potential as well as actual achievement. If they'd also entirely abandoned the passe obsession with other people's bodily fluids and come up with some meaningful horrors to match the creativity of the music, I'd be recommending this whole-heartedly. As it is, I just can't reconcile the two halves of the songwriting process into something I can really appreciate, so the best I can say is that if you're a fan of gore - or largely indifferent to lyrics - then there's some excellent music to be unearthed here.

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Reviewer's rating: 6.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Cadaveric Dissection
2. Sinking Into The Unknown
3. Imminent Death
4. The Unseen
5. Obscurity
6. Garbage
7. Dead Body Art
8. Eternally Forgotten
9. Consumed In Darkness
10. Moans From Beyond The Grave

Duration : Approx. 50 minutes

Visit the Anatomia bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-12-17 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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