Reviewed: September, 2018
Released: 2018, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
As a technologically inclined death metal duo, it would be easy to tag the Bay Area’s Anisoptera as the American equivalent to English extremists Anaal Nathrakh, especially since Anaal guitarist/producer Mick Kenney had a hand in mixing and mastering this their debut.
But while there are a few sonic similarities in the calamitous cascade of guitar and wall of sound approach, Anisoptera is indeed a rather different animal – one with an affinity for dragonflies, it would seem, given their name and album title. Where Anaal Nathrakh is about overwhelming, industrial-strength brute force, Anisoptera is far more technical and evasive, hitting and running with death metal blasts, jazzy flourishes and flighty fits of progressive dexterity that recall the likes of Obscura, among others.
Randall Krieger shows himself to be a remarkably flexible and fluid guitarist. From his delicate, smooth-jazz soloing on the mind-bending “Sporadic Cycle” to the gnashing riffing on “Ammonite” or “Sterilization” and the fleet-fingered shimmer of “Aerial Predator,” he is in constant motion here. And while that sometimes makes for some uneven vocal patterns for partner Robby Perry, as he tries to weave his lines into a constantly shifting flow, Krieger’s work is challenging, yet well-played throughout. There’s a good balance of grit and athleticism here, and things rarely devolve into indulgence, save for the Spanish-flavored acoustic instrumental “Heterochromia Iridis” that closes out the album with a whimper instead of a bang.
Though Perry sometimes struggles to keep up, or fit in, his flame-throwing vocals are an even match for the intensity of Krieger’s guitar work and he shows a bit of elasticity himself in his piercing screams and occasional gruff “cleans.” And kudos to whoever programmed the drums here, because they provide a consistent battery despite the many twists and turns the songs take.
Spawn of Odonata may be a bit overly ambitious, but it nevertheless is a strong debut. The band’s adept chops and welcome unpredictability make for an intriguing listen, especially if you’re weary of the tech-death “same old thing.”