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THE album of 2006 - 100%

quacktheripper, November 18th, 2007

Technical or progressive music often has a way of falling prey to its own pretensions, of being sucked into the inflated egos of the musicians practitioning such form of music. There are many examples of such bands where the sum of the parts has ended up being far lesser than the parts themselves. case in point: every Dream Theater album after Metropolis:Scenes From a Memory or mercurial Dutch death metal band Pestilence's last studio album Spheres or Athiest's disastrous foray into the murky realm of death-metal-by-way-of-jazz wankery on Elements. Technicality in death metal is even more iffy, with lapses ranging from a near total lack of acknowledgement to some pioneers ( I could scream my lungs hoarse about Hellwitch and I'm sure most of you would go "Hell who??") to appliance of what is a rather elite adjective to third grade rejects of the putrid underbelly of death metal (I'm sure all of us have seen "Fisted By Maggots play fast,technical, brutal, skullfucking YAAAAARGGHHH death metal" proclamations) and nearly all NYDM (yes you, Suffocation. Why do people call your music "technical"?).

It looks like a dismal scenario (well, USDM post 1996 mostly has been) but take heart, young padawan. Hope still shines, albeit on another continent. My love for Swedish metal is quite well documented (ask for a copy at your unfriendly local internet forum.You know you want to.) and today we travel back to this land to worship at the altar of ostensibly the best technical death metal band in the world today, Anata (at which point, may I remind skeptics who are wondering "Sweden??Tech DM?" that Sweden also plays home to the super awesome Spawn Of Possession and up-and-coming tech DM marauderers, The Shattering and Deviant). Anata has, since the release of their debut full length The Infernal Depths Of Hatred back in '98 continually pushed the limits of their music to mind-numbingly brilliant levels.

Anata's 4th full length studio outing, The Conductor's Departure is a magnificent excursion into the creative dementia of this Varberg quartet. I say dementia because Anata, since inception, have lived and played in a mad, mad world of their own, with rules set by noone else. The twin guitars of Frederik Schalin (vocals, lead/rhythm guitars) and Andreas Allenmark (lead/rhythm guitar, backing vocals) twist and weave in labyrithine sinuosity, seemingly in different directions but melding to create an exquisite harmony of morbidity and melody. Hendrik Drake's bass provides the perfect foil to the lead pair, ducking in and out of the line, sometimes substantiating, sometimes challenging the rhythm lines. Conny Pettersson completes the musical carnage, his drum patterns performing with near vulgar precision the unenviable task of having to play timekeeper to two of the most deranged riffmen in music today.

Anata recognize the importance of having a strong album opener and the result is Downward Spiral Into Madness, a positively raging mother of a song. Kicking off with dual guitars, both blazing in on veritably different planes, yet culminating in perfect harmony onto a riff that drops the metaphorical ton of bricks on your head and crushes you into submission. Yet, this song is actually be the closest that Anata get to a conventional structure on the album. What follows is 50-odd minutes of sheer technical death metal orgasm. Complete Demise, unlike its predecessor, wastes no time in pummelling your cranial contents into forced retirement. It's the song that most mirrors Anata's previous effort, Under A Stone With No Inscription in terms of mixing enthralling melody and savage brutality into a cocktail of musical annihilation. Next, it's time to play a bit of "spot that riff" on Better Grieved Than Fooled. The intro riff is an extension of the post-breakdown riff (around the 1 and a half to 2 minute mark) on Faith,Hope, Self-Deception from their 2nd (and in my not so humble opinion, their finest) album Dreams Of Death and Dismay. The song also has one of the most haunting breakdowns in recent memory, going from a riff hanging straight from the jugular to a droning, positively evil rhythm and a superbly executed solo. The 4th song is my personal pick for song of the album, The Great Juggler. This song represents everything which makes Anata's songwriting stellar. For most bands, the line between brutality and melody is a firm one, both being treated almost universally as mutually exclusive events (damn you, didn't you learn your probability theory, philistine?), the existence of one almost certainly precluding the chances of occurrence of the othaer. However, Anata operate under no such constraints. They break, nay, RAVAGE, that line with disdain, blending skullcrushing, barbarian rhythm lines with intricately layered melody and more importantly, make it work without sounding contrived. A lesson to be learned for many bands, perhaps, that brutality cannot be forced or pre-concieved. It must be innate, as a logical outcome of the songwriting process than a deliberate will to achieve such ends. The title track is a grandiose effort, alternating between near mournful contemplation and breakneck riffage. There aren't as many solos as one would expect from a band with capabilities as impressive as Anata, but one hardly notices the dearth of solos in the presence of riffs as resplendent in dexterity as are in abundance here.

The Conductor's Departure and Anata in general hardly invoke a reference point and I doubt that you will see any bands trying to replicate Anata's sound either. This album is probably the most searing, yet unpretentious piece of technical music you'll get to listen to in a while. And alas, I am fresh out of superlatives. Buy or die!

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