Album Review : Black Anvil – As Was
9th January 2017, 14:00
Posted by Tristan
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Traditional values are something that have been revered as much as they have been questioned. With its bedrock being the emergence of the early nineties movement of Mayhem, Burzum, Black Metal is one of the most steadfast in the genres of Metal. However as the years have gone by there have been some chinks appear within its seemingly impenetrable armour. Enabling more experimentation, you could argue a new wave of Black Metal was initiated. Allowing for grander songs, far reaching soundscapes with sprawling melodies. Advocates of this new progression in Black Metal are one Black Anvil. Releasing their Relapse debut Hail Death in 2014, elements of the genre were not only expanded but questioned and now the band return with their latest flurry of questions for this most studious of masterminds with As Was.


Length: 51:00
Label: Relapse Records
Release date: January 13th 2017

Tracklist:

  1. On Forgotten Ways
  2. May Her Wrath Be Just
  3. As Was
  4. Nothing
  5. As An Elder Learned Anew
  6. Two Keys : Here’s The Lock
  7. The Way Of All Flesh
  8. Ultra

Starting as they mean to go on the backdrop for As Was is one of a vast nature. The early bark of “On Forgotten Ways” a track that asserts itself in front of the listener reassuring that though the band might be expansive they too can be just as deadly a concoction of straight forward Black Metal. Progression begins on the scintillating “May Her Wrath Be Just“, a song as furious as a woman scorned. Here were shown elements of the band’s experimental nature with longer more drawn out verses bringing forward an entirely different aesthetic where the band truly flourish.

What sets Black Anvil apart from the Metal clad pack however though is their incorporation of genre. “Nothing” being a perfect example, after a well executed verse / chorus / verse structure a chasm like bridge opens up introducing a sprawling keyboard solo more akin to Prog, unheard of in Black Metal. The songs are in turn given an almost Bruce Springsteen like big sound quality as well, particularly with the finale solo where guitarist  Travis Bacon well and truly steps into the spectral spotlight for a face melting solo that would have Bill and Ted using their catchphrase, likening the band to more of a Skynyrd than Mayhem. Ethereal finale in “Ultra” again brings phrasing not well versed in the world of Black Metal, instead giving way to a brighter sound. Before the band bow out  leaving their full stop with an acapella of Latin.

In yet another example of the band’s genre straddling, title track “As Was” brings a sense of a spectral Leonard Cohen-esque chorus back once more deceiving us once again this time with Heavy Metal style chords. Hardly something associated with the dark arts of Black Metal. Similar to their peers, the likes of Deafheaven and Tribulation, all three bands have a foundation rooted in Black Metal yet welcome innovation, experimentation and change. Three ingredients that are needed to push genres forward but above all what Black Anvil have in their arsenal is vision. Despite the recent rocky situation the band have been in their drive to bring everything they’ve got to a record is admirable. Acting as a lifeboat to the sinking monotony that can be Black Metal, melody is Black Anvil‘s ace in the hole here. Retaining the steadfast battering ram akin to Dark Funeral yet still being individual as opposed to so many who fall into the pitfalls of sounding the same, Black Anvil deliver a record that kicks off 2017 in morbidly creative fashion.


Combining the heroic essence of Heavy Metal, the dolor of Black Metal and some truly out there ideas makes for As Was to be a fascinating and very exciting example of Black Metal in 2017.