by Black Anvil

Release date: January 13, 2017
Label: Relapse Records

American black metal band Black Anvil have been consistently strong throughout their career so far, without really breaking onto the next level. Now, on their fourth album As Was, released through Relapse Records, they have another chance.

Opening at a relaxed pace with the nine minute ‘On Forgotten Ways’ you can immediately see that this album is taking a slightly different approach to the raw sound of their earlier output. Different layers of vocals and a song that picks up the pace as the track evolves. It’s definitely a sign of things to come as this album tries a few different things across its 50-minute running time. Following on from that first track is ‘May Her Wrath Be Just’, which at just over three and a half minutes is one of the shortest tracks on the album, and is much more melodic than the band’s usual fare. Title track ‘As Was’ is a similar pace too, opening with an acoustic intro before continuing with a very mellow sound.

As well as being mellower than previous material, Black Anvil have also written some of their most experimental material to date on this album. The six minute ‘Nothing’ is the first real evidence of this, as the later part of the track features some Claudio Simonetti sounding keyboards that gives the rack a 70’s / 80/s horror feel, before breaking into an old school hard rock solo. This combination sounds strange, but it works really well. A couple of tracks later, ‘Two Keys: Here’s The Lock’ is a huge track that takes the term epic to new levels. It takes their core nihilistic black metal sound with rumbling bass and adds progressive elements that gives it a feel more like Opeth or even Pink Floyd. It then continues to switch back and forth, and the way they do his without it ever sounding disjointed is testament to their writing abilities.

The only part of the album that threw me a little was the inclusion of acoustic instrumental ‘The Way Of The Flesh’. There is nothing particularly wrong with the track, it just seems to be in the wrong place for me. Normally these are intros, outros or instrumental interludes that break the album up into different sections, but having this one as the penultimate track makes closer ‘Ultra’ seem more like a bonus track or afterthought, when really it is a very fitting close to the album.

An eclectic daring record that maybe doesn’t quite take them onto the next level just yet, but instead sets them on a different path, where if they develop this sound over the next couple of albums, you could see them producing something very special.

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