Anicon, another band slated to make an appearance at the highly anticipated Migration Fest (albeit in an after-show setting), is primed for a successful 2016. Accompanying their involvement in one of the most sought-after extreme metal festivals of 2016, this year also brings their debut full-length album titled Exegeses. On the surface, Exegeses may appear to be thoroughly embedded in the atmospheric black metal scene. But upon further exposure, we come to find that there is far more contained within the lines of this album, making this one of the definitive black metal albums of 2016.
Aligning with the impressive cover art, Exegeses features a form of atmospheric black metal that offers a bit more darkness and suffering than we might be used. Of course, black metal in general has long been defined by such terms, but the atmospheric tangent has generally been one of a more natural aura, offering a distinctive sense of peace and respite. This album doesn’t consistently rely on that. Again pointing back to the incredibly depicted wild fire above, this sound is one of additional turmoil — as if a disturbance in the elevating qualities previously brought on through this style of music.
To start, the production of this album is spot on. It maintains the proper organic feel to allow the music to encompass you, but it is also clear enough to capture specific aspects of the sound that allow this album to stand on its own. I think specifically of the percussional dynamics of this album, which offer a variety of technique from the more recognized blast beats and gallops to the hollow banging featured on “From Teeth, From Tongue.” Furthermore, the vocal performance is equally as diverse, as the varying emotions contained in the lyrics shine through brilliantly.
More impressive than any of that, however, is how well Anicon bottles a wide variety of stylistic influences to create an environmental range that exceeds many of those that have come before them, making for an altogether more interesting album. And where it seems the varying influences might force the overall personality of Exegeses to wander too far astray, Anicon manages to reign it back in, keeping the album feeling organized and fluid. For example, the initial passages we hear on “Toil and Mockery”, especially the percussion, feel almost like the introduction to a hardcore track before things nestle back into a more traditional black metal or melodic death metal feel. A little later on in the album, the mournful passages in the early stages of “Robed In Torments” are dark and threatening before the track takes a bit more of a more thrash influenced turn in the later stages. Further still, the melodic instrumental passages of “Hallucinating Fate” (with choral-influenced vocals) are among the most inspiring we’ve heard all year. In short, Exegeses does a tremendous job of varying both its sound and structure in a way that keeps the whole thing interesting to an audience without ever feeling disjointed. Atmospheric black metal done well with just the right amount of stylistic exploration — something the genre tends to lack from time to time.
In full, Anicon have created an album in Exegeses that certainly stands out. It does take time to digest, and at times may seem overly extensive because of the song lengths and the complexities contained in them. But overall, it offers something to the black metal genre that is truly worth checking out. A few listens in and this album is still continuing to grow on me. It has a recognizable surface layer, but there is a complicated darkness — a more ominous feel overall — than some comparable albums to drop this year. When all is said and done, we have another can’t-miss band come August in Olympia, Washington.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”