Black Anvil - As Was
Relapse Records
Black Metal
8 songs (53' 51")
Release year: 2017
Official Myspace, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Andy

Two days ago, I watched Black Anvil give a live performance that was OK but not particularly inspiring, and wondered how they ended up opening for the legendary Mayhem. Now that I've heard As Was, I think now that it was more a matter of expectations -- given the blistering aggression of the other two bands on the ticket, it didn't fit with the mood of the show to have such an introspective sound as these guys' appear first. Blame the show organizers, or maybe the venue's acoustics -- but don't blame Black Anvil for that, because their latest LP is quite good, as long as you don't expect traditional black metal, and as long as you listen to its songs in an environment that isn't a giant concrete box.

In tempo and in general sound, As Was reminds me of some of the Cascadian post-black acts and their followers, although they don't really share the same DNA. Mid-tempo pieces strung with clean picking and vocals punctuate black metal blastbeats, wailing leads, and rasped vocals, though the folk-metal leanings of bands such as Agalloch can't be found here. The band's willing to put a healthy dollop of atmosphere into their songs, taking their time on large, bombastic chords at the start of the title track, and the sighing despair of some of the clean vocals accentuate this. Often, though -- and this was the impression I got watching them live, too -- it seems like the black metal is just for flavor. This is a an album of black-metal-influenced rock songs, not the twisted product of a group of misanthropic kvltists ready to shriek Satanic hatred of all that is considered good. Those who expect serious black metal stylings in the album will start getting confused and angry about halfway through the album.

It's a legitimate effort, though, and one can grow to enjoy Black Anvil's interpretation. If you are willing to take upbeat melodies, tinkling picked melodies, and slack, clean vocals along with the harsh shrieks and menacing chords that still liberally spatter the album, you'll find excellent soloing, especially on Nothing, and a nice attention to detail in the harsh/clean vocal duets of bassist Paul Delaney and drummer Raeph Glicken. The songwriting is smooth and seamless, the product of experienced musicians with several bands, mostly hardcore, in their past. The guitar riffs end in ringing echoes like their harsher cousins', but As Was is simply well-crafted, not extreme.

Those who are looking for raw torment should skip this one. Those who don't blench at complex songs and can enjoy post-hardcore mixed into a black metal sound, with a progressive vibe to the songs, will probably be rewarded by a listen.


Killing Songs :
As Was, Nothing
Andy quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Black Anvil that we have reviewed:
Black Anvil - Hail Death reviewed by Neill and quoted 90 / 100
Black Anvil - Triumvirate reviewed by Charles and quoted 80 / 100
Black Anvil - Time Insults the Mind reviewed by Charles and quoted 78 / 100
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