Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Review: Animus - Poems For the Aching, Swords For the Infuriated
Animus is a one-man project out of Israel. The music reflects it: utterly single-minded, it couldn't possibly be the creation of multiple entities; it's simply too pure to be so. There's certainly nothing like the unnamed man behind Animus. While flickers of other bands might be apparent in a purely aesthetic dimension, the core of Animus is intoxicatingly unique and rises above a sea of clones and imitators like some sort of blackened phoenix. And though you might think such an album would spawn a massive ego, the exact opposite is true. The man behind Animus is extremely humble and sees himself as a tool to discover music, not as a godlike creator. This is such distant music, so separated from the rest of art that it almost seems like an entity unto itself that can't really be pigeonholed into such a category as music. The sparse linear notes, which feature no lyrics, song titles, or member names, say it better than I ever could: "Animus is none and nothing but sheer artistic devotion. No words, no musical notes -- emotions."
One might describe Animus' music as black metal, but upon further examination that's a woefully inadequate genre to apply to such a creation. It is easier to describe in relation to artists such as Summoning or AOC, where one can see that there was a connection to black metal at one point that is now a mere trace in the band's music. A more accurate phrase would be 'blackened music', which comes closer to grasping the vastness of Animus. One could even say that it is a reinterpretation of traditional rock music in a black metal aesthetic, yet driving the artistic expression of both genres further by it's mere presence in the medium. I cannot stress this enough: Animus is far, far beyond the vast majority of music today, both sonically and conceptually. The chance of someone being able to write songs more advanced than those present on 'Poems For The Aching, Swords For The Infuriated' is slim at best, at least in this point in time. The music is pure energy; not to say that it is 'energetic', but that it speaks to a holistic design rarely seen and even more rarely mastered to such a degree.
The music present is hugely minimalistic, making 'Transilvanian Hunger' seem like 'Focus' in comparison. Songs from six to thirteen minutes might have two or three melodies at the most. Vocals are harsh yet soothing rasps with the occasional Mutiilation-style wailing scream. The quality is raw, rawer than most, and it perfectly suits the music. Guitars are reduced to background noise, melody is concentrated in sparse keyboards, and only the snare and crash cymbal can be easily heard as percussion. And yet it strikes me that this is the only way such an album could be made. Any more clarity would destroy the passion and beauty that defines this album very much through it's brazen, fearless devotion to simplicity and elegance. Let it be known that this is not music for those that wish for something aesthetically pleasing on a normal level, but for those who will stare into the abyss with no fear to its returning gaze. This is music for those that want to be empowered; ironically, despite how it only somewhat resembles such music, 'Poems For The Aching, Swords For The Infuriated' may very well be the closest music to the ideology and philosophy of black metal that the world has ever seen.
The opening track is a reasonably succinct description of the rest of the album: binary drumming, harsh rasps, a background of guitar fuzz, and slowly shifting synths. All the melody is concentrated in the latter instrument for most of the tracks, mostly due to it being the only melodic instrument that can be consistently heard. Atmosphere changes dramatically from song to song: here it is murky and unsure, an internal battle filled with concern and doubt. The next track is possibly the most 'black metal' track here, with a particularly venomous vocal performance (entirely sung in ancient Hebrew) and Burzum-inspired melody. Here is when one begins to notice that the tracks on this album are not whole songs, but mere fragments of music that could go on for eternity. I'd imagine if such things were possible, Animus would be writing twenty hour songs, such is the timeless quality of such music. It almost feels as if you're getting a brief window into the immortal consciousness of the world; a brief peek into what will never end.
And yet, the most sublime and emotional performance is yet to come. The third track stands as one of the heights of music as a whole. This is possibly the most emotionally naked piece of music I have ever heard. Composed only of a lonely guitar and accompanying vocals, this is an unbelievably, heart-wrenchingly honest slip into a soundstream. Words can't describe the emotions that one feels as this enters you; Animus here ceases to be music and becomes a part of you as a person. At this point, there is no separation, no 'listening' to this album: it is now bound with you in an impossible, unquantifiable way that very, very few records can match. Once again, Animus very nearly separates from 'music' and becomes an entity of its own. This soon shifts into track four, the climax of the album, where the emotions of emotional pain and sorrow leave and are replaced by inner fire that other bands could only hope to match in conviction. This is epic music, not crafted by over-tracking vocal lines and arpeggios, but by an innate understanding of being a small part of a huge world, where one can only become a hero if you believe and do true battle with the expectations of the universe, through true assertion of the self.
The remaining to tracks function as a denouement of sorts after such emotionally taxing tracks as the last two. Five is a slow, perhaps doom-influenced track, while six is the final, bombastic closer where the drums can be heard in full and a mere two guitar riffs occur throughout its thirteen minute span. And a conclusion is reached. It is one full of fear and doubt, but it is a strong, deliberate one without remorse for its beliefs or actions. Animus has no apologies for it's music. And it should not.
This is music that must be listened to in full and in the correct state of mind. To do otherwise is to insult the perfection of such art. Animus with 'Poems For The Aching, Swords For The Infuriated' has made a piece of music lightyears beyond what most of us will ever be able to achieve. Animus has made their masterpiece with a handful of desolate chords, one drum beat, four organ notes, and the conviction of ages.
Music for sunsets over isles, music for communion with nature. Music for those of us that when the end comes will smile with the knowledge that we have won.
(Originally written for http://www.heavymetalmeltdown.com)
Buy this album on Amazon