Been a while since I did one of these, let’s see how my time off served me.
It seemed like a perfect storm. A mixture of all the things I love in music. Sophisticated harmony, technically brilliant, melodically well thought out, and rough around the edges. Everything I could possibly want in an album. Horrendous’ Anereta seemed like a surefire AOTY candidate from me. And at the start, it sure seemed that way.
What struck me first about the album was how each song was structured around one super catchy riff. And not just based around, but evolved from as well, having beginning, middle, and ends that seem to be in some way tangently related to that one riff. Every chord seemed to be there for a reason; to exert a certain emotion, or to move along the song to the next stage. The music in this record is intelligently constructed by extremely well practiced composers. No, not just musicians. That would imply they only know how to play. These guys know how to write good music as well. I loved how despite mostly standard chord progressions, they threw just enough spicy chords in there to keep you on your toes. It’s a much understated aspect of this album, but things like the major seventh mini resolutions on The Nihilist, and the arpeggio on Siderea, just… unf, you know? It’s the kinda thing that almost gives you pseudo-sexual pleasure by listening to it. Not quite eargasms, but more like ear-edging. They’re little things, but important things.
And there’s plenty of those to go around throughout the album. Even my wishes for a rougher sounding track were answered on Acolytes, which is much more a traditional head-banging death metal track that then eases its way to a post-metal like climax in a major key, to which the rest of the song had been in this typical metal mixture of minor and atonal. And of course, just in case you weren’t excited enough, it ends in a completely unrelated key to which the song began, a moment that I’d call random if I didn’t know better.
However, as the album began, it grew a very server case of diminishing returns. I began to realize that even though on a technical level, all the tracks were quite different, they all seemed so much the same. I mean this in that even though they all had distinct structures and melodies, they all conveyed the same thought. They were all synonyms for “technical progressive death metal”. Great to listen to at first, but after a while I felt I wanted something else, something the album hadn’t already shown me yet. The only time Anereta really seemed to change things up was on Sum of All Failures, which resulted in an extremely forced sounding acoustic intro that ended not having anything to do with the rest of the track. It’s almost as if the band knew they needed something else, but didn’t know what else to give that others hadn’t already done.
The album went from a solid 9.75 to around the 8.5-8.25 range. Finally however, I got my wish, as The Solipsist sent the album off with a bang. Taking a totally new spin on the acoustic intro trope, they instead use this muted electric guitar, which sounds more like it belongs in a jazz fusion album than a death metal one. But god damn does it work. This calm, yet sorrowful reflection slowly builds into a crushing, slow, and titanic finale that couldn’t have been a better closer if it tried.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit too little too late. Despite mending the wound slightly with its final breath, Anereta is a fantastic record that just doesn’t quite have enough variety in it to mingle with the elite, showing that songwriting skills alone can only get one so far before our mere human attention spans wish for something different.