Saturday, January 27, 2018
Anholt - Karma Evangelica
Imagine cold spacey black metal with fuzzy guitars playing entrancing melodies over programmed industrial drum beats. If you are thinking “hey, that sounds a lot like Blut Aus Nord,” then you have a great starting point for Anholt’s sound. That said, “Karma Evangelica” is far from a rehash, but is still on par with BAN’s quality, i.e. incredible. One interesting flair that sets the band apart is the incorporation of Russian Orthodox church samples, a helpful comparison would be to Batushka’s release that came out a year after this one. The Orthodox theme also obviously meshes well with the band’s anti-religious cover art and song titles.
While the drum samples are far from top notch, and some of the percussion’s mixing gets clippy, the composition decisions with the beats are absolutely fantastic. This is critical because Anholt tends to just groove on a melody or a particular mood for a while, but the drums make the repetition immersive rather than boring. Naturally, this approach will appeal more to fans atmospheric black metal than to those who need something more riff oriented. Also it is important to note that the album’s 50 minutes are divided across fourteen songs; so the pacing is crisp and energetic even when the tempo is mid-paced.
Apart from the hypnotic melodies, the best part of this album is the sense of depth it has. All of the non-standard metal elements like synthesizers and effects that you would expect to be at the forefront of industrial tinged black metal are artfully subtle. It’s a perfect example of a less is more approach. It’s like standing in an abandoned Russian cathedral in the dead of winter. Other than the craftily placed interludes, the album’s atmosphere always feels just out of reach in the mix, which makes you want to immerse yourself deeper into the music to absorb every last harmonic nuance. Despite a somewhat digital and crisp production approach the instruments, other than the drums, are satisfyingly thick.
The riffs often center around simple melodies drawn out over somewhat long tremolo picked progressions. A song like “Procreations of Echidna” wouldn’t have been at all out of place on BAN’s “The Works Which Transform God,” but the album as a whole hovers a fair bit closer to atmospheric black metal than it does to BAN’s more experimental releases. A nice example of this is how around a minute and a half into “God below” where the focus shifts from one of the more atmospheric slow paced melodies over to a two note theme that seductively blooms into a series of slow trills. Despite being normal in terms of the album’s quality, it’s an amazing moment that illustrates how the solo-project transforms a straightforward idea into something with real panache.
“Karma Evangelica” has an incredibly consistent quality throughout the album. Nothing drags. On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t a riffy or thrashy release, so there aren’t a huge amount of moments, crescendos, or musical climaxes that stand out particularly as highlights - it’s just really good in an overall sense. It’s worth pointing out what for me is the most attention grabbing exception, “Terra implet ingluviem meo.” This song’s pulsing even double bass drum pounds along while melodies are stacked onto another and a few bell strikes are thrown in for good measure as the song builds up to a stark and sudden stop. I mention this because even when straying slightly from the album’s successful formula, the music is unquestionably engrossing. This release is absolutely excellent.