Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Anhedonist - Netherwards 
The past few years have manifested a massive movement of bands that worship either the catchy and pounding style of Swedish death metal or the doom-driven aesthetics first seen in bands like Autopsy. Anhedonist can definitely be earmarked into the latter, as they have a substantially doomy aura, even more so than Autopsy; in fact, they have little to nothing of the energy that Autopsy gave off with Reifert’s penchant for fast-paced rhythm sections mixed together with doom-laden segments. Granted, Anhedonist have a few headbangable moments here and there (even though even these are quite slow), but they have a much more sludgy and miry feel to their music, and frankly almost never care to speed up the tempo. While they could definitely use some uplifting speeds, Anhedonist put such personality into their music that their over-use of heavy and burdening doom never seems to be a problem; rather, it’s actually their best trait (and their only one, at that).
To my surprise, there are only four tracks on the entire record, each roaming around or over the ten minute mark sans one. To my even bigger surprise, this doesn’t stop Anhedonist from producing considerably entertaining death/doom, and while yes, it does tend to drag on for too long sometimes, it has its great moments; and eventually you just get sucked into the mire enough to draw sick pleasure from the whole experience. The songwriting itself flows nicely, combining the occasional eerie melodies with chunky and slow riffs, these tending to slog for usually more than is needed. The riffs are murky and squalid both in themselves and in the way that they’re played, hardly pushed forward by the lazy drumming that serves its purpose as an insignificant facet of their music (though, there’s a couple blast beats thrown in). Anhedonist fortunately provide a good amount of variation, despite my previous bashings; there’s a few moments of tremolo catchiness woven together with the domineering, cumbersome doom riffs, and there’s also some melancholy laced in for good measure, as in the intro to “Estrangement”.
The vocals emit a dark and cryptic tangibility, tortured shrieks that vary greatly from highs to lows and prevail in the yawning ambiance. I cannot help but notice the occasional resemblance (especially in lower registers) to the vocals of Hellvetron, a band I reviewed a while ago that rendered me similarly downtrodden as I emerged with the closing of Anhedonist’s “Netherwards”. Of course a lot that’s on this album has been heard before, and there’s the inevitable and detrimental use of a few very familiar chord progressions, but these aside, there’s more originality to their music than there is the opposite, a lot of it refreshing and pleasantly harrowing. All in all, “Netherwards” is certainly a good achievement, as Anhedonist have succeeded in entertaining all throughout a four-track 40-minute death/doom record, with minimal use of boring repetition, and even this entertaining the listener hypnotically. Unforgiving.