Anata - The Conductor's Departure
Earache Records
Technical Death Metal
10 songs (53:40)
Release year: 2006
Anata, Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

At a single stroke combining technicality and melody, being both brashly traditional and open-minded in its leftfield exploratory nature, Anata’s fourth full-length is excellent, arguably the Swedish band’s best work in its seventeen-year existence. Hints of Decapitated-esque percussion-fuelled drama mix with Melodeath’s lost spirit to create the perfect hybrid, creating songs rather than mere collections of riffs, and as a Tech-Death album this stands amongst the best. It’s impossible not to be impressed with the songwriting skills – as well as instrumental chops – showcased by the likes of Downward Spiral Into Madness, a strangely melancholic opener track that reveals the band’s talents without being afraid of natural dips into precise groove or the kind of repetitions necessary to form what passes for choruses in this odd little subgenre.

Tracks are little short of mini-epics, packing in plenty of technical sturm und drang without losing the listener to boredom, yet it’s hard to listen with anything less than your full attention, as this is the sort of album that doesn’t suffer fools gladly. It’s much of a muchness – the more you listen, the more it becomes apparent that the band wrote the album as a whole, and the songs flow together incredibly well, enough to make casual listens seem almost samey. Don’t fall into the trap; there’s nothing really repetitive from track to track, and the album has a natural flow of its own which will draw the focused listener in and keep them hooked. By the time you’ve reached the Opeth-like grandiosity of Better Grieved Than Fooled which launches into epic Prog Death territory, it’s hard not to be hooked, and the sheer smoothness with which the band introduces such epic structures is jaw-dropping.

There’s never a dull moment to be had, the rhythmic deconstruction of the rhythm section which opens The Great Juggler before sliding into Morbid Angel-esque clatter a personal favourite. Whether slowing it down on I Would Dream Of Death or increasing the speed to breakneck pace on Disobedience Pays, the band are masters of their instruments, and never provide less than a compelling racket, genuinely progressive in terms of out-there time signatures and Death-worthy melodies, even interlude Children’s Laughter being wonderfully professional and genuinely atmospheric. This is the sort of album that you start listening to and find yourself unable to stop, hooked through the lip by each spiked riff, caught in a trap more profound and dangerous than threatened any innocent woodland creature.

Technical Death Metal tends towards the nerdier end of the Metal spectrum, but it’s fair to say that the impact of the genre has been vital to the development of, well, every single metal genre there is. Sloppy playing is now routinely castigated – Venom would find no success at all nowadays, even amongst the old-school crowd – and it seems impossible to find an extreme metal band that doesn’t have a drummer capable of out-playing any random rock band that you sample. As music fans, I find it admirable that Metalheads demand a higher standard of musical skill than your average R’n’B fan would, and I’m proud to be a fan of a genre whose top musicians rival that of classical and jazz music. Technical Death Metal may be oversaturated and prone to the waffle which afflicts any especially ‘artsy’ art form, but it’s worth defending as a vital part of the extreme metal canon, and Anata deserve their day in the sun. According to various websites they’ve been working on a follow-up to The Conductor’s Departure since 2008 – if it’s half as good as this, it’ll have been worth the wait. In the meantime, this is music for veterans and unashamed connoisseurs that gets better each time you hear it.

Killing Songs :
Downward Spiral Into Madness, Better Grieved Than Fooled, The Great Juggler, I Would Dream Of Blood, Disobedience Pays, The Conductor’s Departure
Goat quoted 89 / 100
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