It’s high time I finished my 2018 favorites list (or at least the thorough reviews).
Every year, I try to get into a new style that pushes my appreciation of extreme music just a little bit further. In 2017, I took a deeper dive into grindcore with some classic Napalm Death and Agoraphobic Nosebleed. This past year, I attempted to grasp the appeal of the super-dissonant side of death metal. Portal are probably the best known band in this style right now and are still well beyond me, but I think I’m more invested at wrapping my head around Gorguts at this juncture, as their melodic sensibilities are more pronounced and I’ve been a Colin Marston fan ever since I first heard “You Will Be Reincarnated As An Imperial Attack Space Turtle”.
That said, after 2018, I think Anachronism might have been the band I was looking for this whole year. After hearing the first couple tracks of Orogeny, which I believe to be their second album, I was pretty sure Anachronism would be a great gateway into the thick, murky, dissonant ends of the death metal spectrum. Orogeny ended up exceeding my expectations on every front and was one of the strongest albums I heard this year. (Also before the cut I need to tell you that this album shares a name with the magic system in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy, which you absolutely must read if you’re up for some heavy-hitting fiction.)
Anachronism aren’t what I would call accessible, let’s be clear; I wouldn’t recommend this to you if you’re trying to get into metal in general. What I think any listener would recognize, though, is that this album grooves. This album feels alive. The rhythm section does their best to keep you on your toes with frequent tempo changes and wild drum patterns (which will seem almost Dillinger-esque to folks expecting a typical brutal death metal experience), but there’s a churning, tectonic pulse to each of these tracks that locks everything in, that keeps you bobbing your head even as you’re inundated by blast beats. Many bands would be content to put all their eggs into that basket and push the groove as high in the mix as they could (thus drowning out the treble and turning Orogeny into another caverncore record), but Raphaël Bovey, who mixed this album, clearly knew what he was doing, and knew that that approach would be a disservice to these songs. The mix instead honors the incredible technical capacity of these musicians and the songwriting chops of band mastermind/vocalist/guitarist Lisa Voisard; the solos on this album are gorgeous and unexpected, slice upwards through the low end’s roil to unfold and astound. The title track is a great showcase of how Anachronism balance grace and brutality like true masters, but I don’t have a favorite track on this album; the whole thing rips. Except for the two tracks that don’t: “Hidden Relief” is a poetic interlude that brings to the stark forefront one of the album’s lyrical themes, the torturous process of self-actualization; and the outro, “11’034”, is a cold, granular electronic composition that conjures all the longing of Deathprod’s imaginary songs from tristan da cunha as Anachronism takes their leave, inviting us to reflect on what we have learned.
Anachronism are a diamond in the rough, an unsigned band from Switzerland who took me by storm in 2018 with an album both craggy and scintillating. They didn’t get a lot of press this year (though they did end up on Trevor Strnard’s list), and I can only hope that they get as much support from the industry at large as they want in 2019 and beyond; they’re a force to be reckoned with, and I can’t wait to see what comes next for them.