In general, I’m a lenient guy. I say “live and let live, and love all the rest.” When it comes to metal, I try to apply this ‘life-philosophy’ to my CD reviews and consider the flawed human beings behind the music – it sometimes tempers my wrath against bands who either lack talent, or simply failed to deliver up to their potential. I try and keep standard human frailty in mind when looking at smaller metal outfits that truly lack the resources needed to make a modern album sound up to pace with more well-heeled outfits. But every man has his limits, and it took TRANSMUTACION to break them.
Enter Mexican technical death metal band Anlace, a band that truly epitomizes the “do-it-yourself…in a can!” concept. From the most casual listen of TRANSMUTACION, it’s clear that this album was produced for little more than a half a shilling and a can of stale beer (something I do NOT fault the band for in the least, but an album’s production quality must be mentioned when it’s as spectacularly awful as this.) Drums are frequently out of time, especially in a complex mellow passage during the title track. The bass wanders all over, falling behind the guitars on opener “Dose of Balanced Coldness.” In a modern production, the ability to play (or fake it using a skilled editor) one’s instruments correctly is not a nice bonus – its mandatory. Every note and beat has to be accurate, or it distracts the listener.
As for the overall ‘sound’ of the album, I imagine that a deaf toddler could have done a better job of recording the drum sound, which sounds at best like twigs beating on garbage can lids. The lifeless, fatiguing mix might have been executed by an unusually irritable lobster for all I can tell. If this was 1993 in Norway, I might be more forgiving, but that seminal “necro” sound is a bird that’s long since flown (and was generally created that way on purpose. Technical death metal needs to sound clean or we lose the ‘technical’ part!)
Last of all my marks against the ghastly production are the vocals – beg your pardon, the aural torture that sounds like pig farts being forced through a broken Marshall amp. Vocalist Odin might have some capacity as a death metal vocalist, but when each lyric he grunts is grotesquely over-processed to sound like its coming through a broken telephone, I have no way of telling. Special processing effects for vocals have their place in music, but they sound absolutely awful if overused (let alone using the same crummy effect throughout the entire album.) Opener “Dose of Balanced Coldness” had me thinking this could be a decent album – until I heard the first of the vocals and promptly realized that it was going to be a struggle to listen to the CD all the way through.
Enough about knocking down the production & technical stuff – what sort of music are we dealing with here? At their worst, the songs sound like immature imitations of early Death, maybe with some melodic influence thrown in. There are occasionally some groovy breakdowns that add some much-needed dynamics, such as the midpoint on the title track, but these are too infrequent to elevate the music past the horrific production.
No matter how rough I am on a band, I always try to say something kind about an album I don’t like. Fortunately, there are more than a couple good things about TRANSMUTACION. The band clearly has some songwriting talent, and knows how to write a decent riff. There was an instrumental moment on ending track “Dreams” that absolutely blew my socks off, to the point where I went and replayed the section a couple times. Take a bow for that one Anlace – that’s not something I can say about a lot of bands.
Overall, I can’t really recommend this album, or the band. It’s far too rough for all but the most battle-broken palates. The band has potential, but they will need a talented, patient producer (and a lot of money) to bring that potential to the forefront.
Sorry Anlace, but today is not your day. Keep trying – you guys might make a damn good record next time.
P.S. – This album can be downloaded for free on the bands’ website www.anlace.org/
P.P.S – For the observant, note the tracks that go something in binary code like “00110001.” I think the band was going for a shot at grindcore with these “songs,” because they last 10 seconds or so and sound far worse than the rest of the album, if that could be possible.
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