With one foot in tradition and another in exploration, Brooklyn’s Anicon have been steadily churning out some of the most engaging and ripping black metal in the past few years. Never abandoning the tried and true foundations of the genre, each release has sought to fold a sense of adventure through melody, rhythm and counterpoint to create something that never fails to identify with with the genre while simultaneously push against it. Entropy Mantra captures that sense in what feels like the band’s most realized album to date.
Having steadily put out demos and EPs since 2012, the band first came to my attention with the 2015 EP Aphasia. If there’s a better visual equivalent to the band’s creed of warping traditional black metal than the cover – an image of a forest split by lines as if viewed on a VCR with the tracking off – I don’t know it. The first track “Fall From Earth” immediately hoked me in, and despite its more traditional leaning already showed an interest in shifting moods and dynamics in the songwriting. Three years later the execution has only improved, and Entropy Mantra seamlessly flows from track to track, always brutal yet engaging with different moments to create memorable songs that don’t rely on simply blasting and wailing 2-3 riffs endlessly.
After the crush of opener “Feeding Hand” this really comes to play on the second track, “Wither and Waste.” The tremolo picking carves out a simple melody that gradually expands and transforms by ascending into an uplifting call as it moves into the chorus. The middle section pits the tremolo picking against a repeated hammer on line before moving into a dual line that exhibits the mental telepathy going on between guitarist Owen Rundquist and guitarist/vocalist Nolan Voss (no relation). Moving to the somber introduction to “Drowned in the Mirage” feels almost too abrupt until it spits into some classic black metal territory. But Anicon is never content to stay in that mode, so you have small – literally a few seconds – where the needle drops to a clean passage seemingly from another song except it works perfect in context to what just transpired before leaping full throttle backing the maelstrom of the song proper.
As Entropy Mantra progress the album betrays its name: rather than fall apart it coalesces into some stunning modern metal. “Names Written in Tar” steps into classic guitar heroics with its opening solo and the drum work from man of 100 bands Lev Weinstein (Krallice and Pyrolatrous just to name two awesome ones) is a standout. He can pummel with the best of them, but his trick is to do it and maintain a wide range from kick to crash that allow the drums to occupy the full spectrum of sound. Not only that, but to then leave space for the monstrous bass Alexander DeMaria displays between the riffs and blasts on “Tarnish On the Emblems of Ardor” is a spectacular feat of restraint amidst chaos.
The final two songs of Entropy Mantra each clock in at over nine minutes, and provide a small relief from the blistering speed of the previous tracks. Both “Blood From a Road” and “Paling Terrain” tread different paths, with the former inhabiting a slow dirge that rises and falls to encompass some serious mid-paced menace. “Paling Terrain” feels like the summation of everything the bands stands for. It’s sweeping and epic, progressive while firmly adhering to the musical signposts of black metal, and exquisitely performed, giving ample room for every instrument to stand out and do their job, whether it’s furiously blasting or as it does about four and half minutes in, jump into an off-time syncopation that elevates rather than detracts from the overall mood of the piece.
It’s been said before how insane the metal scene coming out of Brooklyn is and has been for years, but the circle of musicians lending their talents both in front of and behind the scenes lately is just stunning. When you think about the connections between bands like Yellow Eyes, Krallice, Belus, and Anicon…all bands this site has held aloft in year end lists the arrival of a new album in any configuration is exciting news. The fact that Entropy Mantra is a damn good as it is just makes it better. This is easily one of my favorite releases of the year, and just another poke to remind me I need to get out and see them live again, sooner rather than later.