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Lacking That Certain Intensity... - 37%

Angry_Citizen, May 20th, 2010

Some time back, as I was just getting into death metal, I was directed towards what I was assured would be a wonderful technical death metal band: Anata. At the time, I was also getting recommendations for such classics as Suffocation, Morbid Angel, Atheist, Death, and Obituary. It is lucky that I chose to go for old school death metal before trying to get into modern tech death bands, because if I'd listened to Anata first, I doubt I would have an extensive collection of death metal today.

Anata is typical of technical death metal bands. The music is nearly impossible to replicate, and requires extensive knowledge of music theory just to decipher. The band members are clearly talented. But as is sadly common in modern tech death, instrumental prowess does not equal good music.

For the longest time, I sat and pondered just what was wrong with Anata. It has everything. Decent drumming, clear, non-staticky production, an audible bass (audible bass in my death metal? get out of here! crazy kids...), and remarkable guitar talent (seriously, they were playing things in perfect time). As I listened over and over, it finally dawned on me. It wasn't just one thing, it was a whole host of things.

First, the guitar tone. See, when you get into classical death metal, you just can't get away from guitar tones. From Suffocation's bottomless pit of downtuned guitars, to Trey Azagthoth's famous seething, ultra-muted tone, to Atheist's audible razor blades, to the Hoffman brothers' almost-percussive sound, classical death metal is filled with the most vicious, most ear-annihilating tones imaginable. Anata's tone, on the other hand, turns the music into a droning borefest. Whenever I imagine Anata using, say, Chuck Schuldiner's tone in Human, all I can envision is a sick, disgustingly powerful death metal record, despite the flaws yet to be revealed in this review. It seems Anata were trying for a tone conducive to melody, but that's no excuse for having a limp-dick sound. Bands like Entombed and Dismember managed to have the famous 'chainsaw' tone while retaining their melodic undertones, especially in their solos. -30 points

Second, the growls. Now, weak, droning growls are not in-and-of-themselves music-killers. You can still have a really good death metal album even if your vocals aren't up to snuff. Examples include Cynic's masterpiece Focus, and Necrophagist's Onset of Putrefaction. The fellow in Anata, try as he might, cannot seem to replicate anything remotely associated with force. It is not particularly deep; it is not particularly harsh; it's this weird cross between a rasp and a growl. Like if Altars-era David Vincent melded with Effigy-era Frank Mullen. Now, while that may have all kinds of old school deathheads drooling in anticipation, I can assure you that the result is not anything like what you expect. -10 points

Third, and finally, the riffs. As any death metal purist will tell you, you can have the sickest guitar tone, the best vocals in the world, and Pete Sandoval himself operating on a combination of crystal meth and three pots of coffee, and you still won't have an awesome death metal record. Fundamentally, metal is still a riff-based form of music. This applies to thrash, death, black, even prog. If the riffs aren't there, then your record is going to flop. Riffs can be anything. It can be Immolation's random-at-first-glance single-high-note riffs with lots of trem picking. It can be something as slow and devastating as an Obituary power chord. Whatever the case, if you make your riffs COMPLETELY random, then they're NOT RIFFS. Now, on first inspection, this may simply be a case of tech death riffs flying over my head. It wouldn't be the first time it's happened. But no, I don't think it's unfair to criticize a band for having no discernible riffs whatsoever. Origin, another tech death band, can play their guitars at light speed and STILL have discernible riffs. There is no excuse for this. Metal is riff-based. If you don't want riffs, then go play in a cheesy math rock band. -30 points

Now, though I raked Anata over the coals, there is still some good in the album. As I mentioned before, the band is clearly skilled at their instruments. But like Brain Drill, they just need someone who can write songs for them. I still wouldn't like their tone or their vocals, but at least they'd be an enjoyable listen every once in a while. Their drumming isn't awful. It wasn't blast-beat-oriented, which is a relief. +7 points

All I can say for Anata is, judging by the high reviews here, it's clearly a love-'em-or-hate-'em approach. But before you buy, check them out on youtube, or procure samples in other ways.