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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.