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Warring Factions - 98%

canthisevenbecalledmusic, September 12th, 2012

Lately if you’re like me in any sort of way; You’ve been somewhat bored with the music the industry has been *Shatting* out in the recent year and a half. And even though my general tastes usually fall within Extreme Death or Black Metal (Behemoth, Nile, Viraemia, Opeth, Dimmu Borgir, In Flames, Meshuggah, etc…) I do have a more expansive taste. Though as I said; The recent releases have been making me yawn at best.

And in my searches, lo and behold what do I come across but a somewhat unknown band by the name of Ansur…. Let me start by saying I have been nothing less than thoroughly impressed with this bands latest release “Warring Factions”. These guys are a REAL gem.

Hailing from Norway (Both Unsuprising and yet, Very suprising), these guys started as an initial 3-piece, They quickly got noticed for their first major release “Axiom”, being more in the vein of their bretheren Black Metallists. Are now a complete band, composed of:

Espen Aulie – Bass and Vocals
Torstein Nipe – Guitars
Glenn Furguson – Drums
Nicolay Svennaes – Keys and Organs

Of course, being from Norway, they almost purposefully set out to prove that they not only wouldnt, but simply couldnt be grouped in with the Stereotypical Norwegian dictom of being a standard Black Metal band; In fact, you really cant even call them Black Metal at all; Albeit somewhat obvious that they are from Norway, from the first 30 seconds off the first track, you can tell that they are indeed different….in a BIG way.

Beginning with the very first track: “The Tunguska Incident”, you know that something is completely unique with this group; Fading in with a quiet and beautifully executed disharmonic acoustic intro, and immediately speeding up into an almost Daughters-style chaotic chord riffing, and then panning out into the first verse with heavily distorted guitars and Espen’s instantly recognizable Keep of Kalessin style thrash vocals. Then, almost as quickly as it got started, it transitions into a Jazz-Jam-Band style venture, starting with a David Bowie influenced distortion solo, then flowing blissfully into a Jam-Band Saxophone and Horn solo/leads being conspicuously reminiscent of Ulver. 2 minutes later it almost instantly changes into this almost Opeth/The Doors inspired keyboard and guitar venture; becoming a veritable 60′s band for another minute and a half, before fading into an almost Molly Hatchet/Opeth riff-bridge, leading back into the next verse….and yet another gorgeous solo vaguely sounding of a cross between Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd, making up what is the outtro.

Of course, that’s not to say that they cant tread into other genres of Rock and Metal and also kick total ass; With following tracks such as “Sierra Day”, “Phobos Anomaly”, and “An Exercise in The Depth of Field”, they prove once again that their talents have only yet to be established. Incorporating rather Technical Metal guitar riffing types in the memories of, if not directly influenced by bands such as Between the Buried and Me, Cynic, and so on. Especially on treats such as “An Exercise in The Depth of Field”, where they do exactly as the name suggests; Exercising their talents in the depths of the field of music. Utilizing rather technical selective riffs in the intro licks, showing that they too can “Wank” on a guitar, but not to the point to where its contrived and overtly indulgent. Which I can respect (being a Bassist, I crave structure). On top of that, the outtro to “An Exercise…” has that timeless sound that gives someone that “Nostalgic” feeling of old times, which really spoke to me on an overrall talent scale, showing true musicianship.

….As I stated before, these guys are a TRUE gem. One of which should be kept track of for future releases. Especially considering how much of an immense change “Warring Factions” brought the band from their Debut release “Axiom”. Their future works should be at the very least epic in sound and composure.

I must confess, although I stated that I have a wide range of tastes and an expansive outlook on music; Espen Aulie’s vocals WERE somewhat difficult for me to get accustomed to, but honestly, relating his vocals to Keep of Kalessin in terms of his heavier stylings made it easier to digest; and now that I have given Ansur a dignified chance; I simply cannot stop listening to it….I believe that this band is shamefully underappreciated and fans of any band I have previously mentioned in this review should also give them a dignified chance. These guys are truely talented and will surely make a name for themselves in the coming future….If not with this actual album.

I give them a 49/50 simply because any disagreement I had with Espen’s vocal-stylings were immediately silenced by their immesureable musicianship, writing abilities, and song composition. And I’ve even grown to like his vocals in the recent couple of weeks…..

A true perspective-expanding experience in the world of music.

Treat yourselves to the Opus that is “Warring Factions”

~CJW

A classy release. - 86%

Andromeda_Unchained, November 30th, 2011

I reviewed Ansur’s debut a while back and had intended to give their sophomore effort the treatment soon after. Alas other releases cropped up and I kept moving this towards the bottom of the pile. So almost a year later, here we go. Warring Factions was a massive step up in quality from their debut, and if I’m being honest I’m hard pressed to think of another album or band like it/them.

Where as Axiom had a good foot in the black metal of their country, Warring Factions is akin to the band leaping out of their regional chains, spreading their progressive wings fully and creating somewhat of a flawed masterpiece. The band show next to no restraint as far as arrangement is concerned, cramming in a ton of influence, some of which is admittedly non-metal (see the middle of “An Exercise In Depth Of Field” complete with its country bumpkin jam out). Fortunately this never sound overcrowded, with every change being masterfully executed.

The sound is excellent, and with the inclusion of saxophones gives Warring Factions quite the classy sound. 70’s style organs are used to brilliant effect, as is common of the progressive genre, and the album succeeds in being genuinely progressive. I’ve racked up a fair bit of mileage with the album and with each listen I still find myself surprised by the changes, and of course the skill and conviction such a young could employ.

Standouts among the crowd would include the stupendous “Sierra Day”, where gorgeous acoustic guitars dance in and over chugging riffs, building into an incredible guitar/ saxophone play off towards the end. “At His Wit’s End” gives a good indicator to the sound of the album, which is excellent in arrangement and really shows the band doing everything they do best. Warring Factions is way more melodic than their debut and as a result is very pleasant on the eardrums, I wouldn’t say this delivered too much in the way of heaviness, but as the old axiom goes: this is thinking man’s metal. (See what I did there).

I found Warring Factions to be an excellent release, and I also happen to know that this can be tracked down for very cheap. As a result, any fan of progressive metal really has no excuse not to pick this up, I’m serious, we’re talking pocket change here. This is a truly progressive release, and I’m really hard pressed to think of anything that sounds like it, a genuinely interesting listen with a great feel and atmosphere. Recommended

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Warring Fractions. - 85%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 27th, 2008

The concept of an ‘extreme’ sub-genre seems ridiculous given most forms of metal are considered extreme anyway, but there we have it. Ansur, a popular Norwegian band are apparently a progressive extreme metal band. There debut was met with both criticism and praise, much like all records are, but the band managed to build a rather large fan base of loyal supporters and this second effort, ‘Warring Factions’ is a continuation of the success the debut afforded to the band. As far as this ‘extreme’ sub-genre goes, most people will recognise Opeth in that band of brothers playing this distinguished and experimental style, but its such a varied sub-genre. Is it even a sub-genre? The concept of an ‘extreme’ sub-genre is alien to me, but nevertheless, despite the ongoing debates over genres and who fits into where, Ansur are a highly original band using influences from a wide ranging source, some might even exist outside the field of metal and further outside our comfort zones into areas like jazz and such. Again, genres of music are subjective and highly controversial, thankfully, the instrumentation doesn’t allow much debate in terms of quality. ‘Axiom’, the debut, was a well concentrated effort with several sublime moments (see ‘Interloper’), but it was missing that cutting edge that took it up a notch.

Despite the increased intensity and experimentation, ‘Warring Fractions’ doesn’t quite make it into the top records of this particular field of metal, though it certainly does push the top bands to aim higher in their search for honour and glory. The production is fantastic, it gives Ansur a mystical sound, which is supported by the lyrical themes of creation theories, science fiction and conceptualism. These lyrical themes, although not the most important element of Ansur, do make the idea behind the band more interesting and their appeal slightly higher. Using lyrics of this nature has the potential however to establish Ansur as rather pretentious, which I assume many people will view them as considering the complexities in instrumentation with its many layered themes and the lyrical concepts which unfold in a diverse and intelligent manner. Perhaps there is an element of showboating but when you have the talent to do so, is it really that bad? Probably not. Depends on your own personal disposition, I suppose. Whether you’re into arrogance and pretension, or whether you like honest hark work. To be fair, in my eyes, this record, ‘Warring Fractions’, symbolises both those entities.

Ansur experimentation has a habit of coming across as arrogant, whilst their endless showboating through their layered soundscapes which places acoustics on top of electric leads, the use of numerous effects and programming may grate on the nerves on some. The use of two guitarists is probably pivotal to this opinion that Ansur subject their audience to a pretentious projection of their themes as both guitarists play off one another simultaneously and the bassist basically soundproofs what they’re doing by laying the foundations to their work and toying with the emotions of the listener. There are times when Ansur switch between genres, take ’An Exercise In Depth Of Field’ as an example. There is a section, half way through, when Ansur begin to resemble a rodeo act, playing a breed of country music from way out West where the cowboys are bucking broncos … Or something like that. In other parts, it will dazzle and excite the senses, especially when bass and guitar combines to create atmospherics drive the music forward to more promising destinations, away from the arrogance. If the lyrics to the previous release are anything to go by, one should perhaps expect a similar approach in complexities.

“The profound impact
put the inhabitants in a gasp!
In which ascendancy
that made their planet descent

The earth will transfigure
into a plantation strict
Of an eloquent exigency
with grit and persiflagness!”

Aside from these areas of showboating, Ansur do create some sublime moments due to the solid musicianship and fanciful song writing skills that draw on thought provoking concepts and adventurous soundscapes that slip back and forth from fantasy to reality and back again. The interesting, and innovative style of Ansur will cause a stir within the underground for sure, as it is already doing. This record has a bit of everything. Acoustics, two guitarists merging sounds and then playing differing leads from one another, then the intriguing vocal display, to the varied percussion, to the emotive bass and back again to the strange aura that Ansur associate themselves with. Diverse and often catchy. Highlight: Sierra Day.