BLACK ANVIL‘s latest effort, As Was is a mixed effort. The ambition of the song-writing and scope of the song-writing ability on display is often marred by some problematic production that blunts the edge of the storm of riffs. Make no mistakes; As Was is a well-written, ambitious progressive black metal record; it just loses so much of the inherent savagery and primal rage of the genre with a questionable production job.
Where As Was really excels is in crafting winding, and technically complex passages of progressive black metal. The riffs are often good and the band have clearly honed their craft over the last few albums to a fine art. Nine minute long Two Keys: Here’s the Lock is the height of this songwriting nouse, the song effortlessly transitioning between a number of musical themes while still remaining a cohesive piece of music. Opener On Forgotten Ways is an impressive piece of work too; opening with menacing guitars while the rest of the band build around the initial riff; incorporating ethereal choral vocals beneath tribal rhythms. As a collection of songs As Was demonstrates a considerable amount of talent and ability. It’s impressive work especially for a genre that often eschews many of the song-writing intricacies of more progressive genres of metal.
However; As Was does have some serious issues. The main problem being that it just sounds too… well, nice. A well-rounded guitar tone and a riff assault that sounds like it’s been rather too well buffed by the machination of music production means that, no matter the song-writing talent, As Was can only do so much. Without the ferocious, razor sharp assault of the best of the genre it’s always going to feel like the most vital parts of this sort of music has been stripped away.
Alongside its production problems As Was also feels like it never really has a strong identity; something that all the best black metal needs. The two most relevant touchstones in As Was’s case; BEHEMOTH and ROTTING CHRIST are both excellent examples of the important personality plays. BEHEMOTH are pure spiteful evil while ROTTEN CHRIST conceal the ‘evil’ of Black Metal amongst tribal rhythm and drumming – As Was achieves none of the impact of these two artists. BLACK ANVIL might have the song-writing nouse but in terms of sonic power As Was feels like it’s packing more bark than bite.
BLACK ANVIL certainly have a lot of the right pieces in place but what they lack with As Was is an abrasive personality to push front and centre and dominate the record.
As Was is out now via Relapse Records.
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