Released: 2017, Relapse Record
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
So Black Anvil play emo now, eh?
Okay, “emo” might be a stretch, but their latest release AS WAS is a certainly a left turn from their past crustier, blackened past. But even the surliest artists evolve, and Black Anvil have figured out a way to successfully integrate clean vocals, unapologetic melody and an RPM below 500 into their core sound. And the result is surprisingly effective; while it’s been easy enough to accuse the band of being one-dimensional, prepare to have your preconceptions shattered.
The tempered, goth-leaning entrance of “On Forgotten Ways” immediately signals that something new is afoot. Sounding almost like an offshoot of Old Man’s Child and mid-gen Anathema, the tune saunters at a breezy, dreamlike pace at times, bridged with the fire and brimstone of late-game Scandinavian black metal. “May Her Wrath Be Just” leans more aggressive, but the contrasting clean vocals somehow give its emotional insistence some legitimacy. “Nothing” features a full on prog-synth interlude, while “Ultra” excoriates with some tasteful shred and ends on a downright hopeful note in praise of Satan, the same way that Peter Steele could make the most nihilistic subject matter sound like it came from the Beatles song book.
Given that 1) Black Anvil still has the street cred to tour alongside Mayhem and Inquisition and 2) they look like a rival gang from Sons of Anarchy, I think fans will be hard pressed to label AS WAS a cash grab or sellout move. Quite the contrary; it’s still an aggressively heavy and involved album that the weak at heart will shy away from, but is also the key to unlocking the door to new audiences and opportunities. AS WAS is the sound of a band breaking their own mold, you’d be advised to check this out our stay out of their way.