Anhedonist’s devastating ‘Netherwards’ is a killer landmark in doom and death

A few weeks ago, I talked about demo recordings and how I generally am not up to speed on them. Again, it’s not because I don’t try to get my hands on new things on the horizon, it’s just that with a full-time job, raising a dog, and doing other daily crap, it’s really hard to get as immersed as I’d like to be. So I depend on word of mouth mostly for budding bands that require my attention, and that seems to work out for me. My collection of said recordings actually is growing.

So it’s always awesome when I do get my hands on some early recordings and then watch the band progress. One of the groups I’ve been following pretty steadily since their first recording “The Drear” is Seattle’s awesome doom/death soldiers Anhedonist. The three tracks on my cassette version are damn near running themselves thin because I’ve listened to the thing so many times. The tape would be dead if I had a cassette player in my car. Luckily iPod tracks don’t go bad. But instantly upon hearing the band, I knew they’d be one I’d follow closely as their career progressed, and my enthusiasm blew over when I first started getting press releases on their debut full-length “Netherwards,” released by the always awesome and reliable Dark Descent. Seriously, if you are hungry for some new death and doom and are not sure where to turn, just buy a few random things from DD, and you will not be disappointed.

But back to Anhedonist. Their mangling, ugly transmissions will make you feel filthy and rotting inside. They get into your bones and your blood and infect you with morbidity. The closest comparisons I can come up with for this band are Aldabaran and Mournful Congregation (more in philosophical approach than sound, but there’s certainly a connection), and not so oddly, those bands all completed a West Coast tour together quite recently. Hey, uh, East Coast next time. Thanks.

Basically, you won’t feel enriched as a person or enthusiastic to tackle the day when you’re done listening to Anhedonist and their amazing new record “Netherwards,” and it isn’t fodder for a celebratory get-together with friends. It’s what you use to connect to your inner darkness and depression. The music helps you latch on to your darker side, one that perhaps you try to suppress in order to put a happy face on things but that certainly lingers beneath you. I think it’s far more dangerous not to acknowledge those feelings than to put them on a shelf, so I’ve gotten a lot of cathartic use of Anhedonists’s music. I’m not afraid to admit that sometimes I’m a miserable fuck, and because I spend time with that side of myself, I feel more balanced.

Maybe you will be able to work out some of your inner strife with these dudes (um, and lady) – V.B. (vocals/guitars), K.H. (guitars), Z.S. (drums), D.F. (bass) – and their latest cauldron of hatred and misery. “Netherwards” is but four tracks long, but you can bet you’re going to spend a nice bit of time with each one of them. This is doom after all, and long, sorrowful compositions are commonplace in the genre, but this band doesn’t embrace that idea of the epic just to do it. On each song, you can hear the band working through emotions and making their way musically to a particular thought’s conclusion. These songs sound timed just right, and they’re proof that Anhedonist is one of doom metal’s most important rising bands.

“Saturnine” opens with a long pockets of silence, so don’t go adjusting the volume knob or thinking you got a warped copy. It’s there by design, to slowly draw you into the song that piles muddy thrashing on top of punishing, grinding guitar work. It’s utterly, beautifully brutal, and when the death chimes carry you out, you know you’ve been through a war inside your head. “Estrangement,” as the title indicates, is sad and gloomy, taking up a crushing mid-tempo assault that gets dressed with tortured shrieks and cries of desperation. “Carne Liberatus” is the shortest song on here, but it makes the most of its time by also being the heaviest, most aggressive of all the tracks. There are sinister guitar sections,  growling shrieks courtesy of V.B., and eventually a nice melody buried underneath all the soot to calm you down again. The whole thing ends with the 15-minute epic mauler “Inherent Opprobrium,” a song that tests the limits of what your psyche can handle and also gives you a neat summary of all the things this band does so well. There are clean sections, some furious gallop, some maniacal tirades over excruciatingly slow parts, including V.B. howling, “I’ll never forget your screams,” and the whole thing eventually bleeds out into the fog, leaving you pounded and vulnerable.

I had super-high hopes for this record, and it’s one that I told a lot of people to look out for in the future. I’m pleased that not only have my expectations been met, they’ve been totally blow away. Anhedonist is a band you must hear right now, this very instant, so that you can get in on the bottom floor. They’re a band that will fuel the underground of death and doom metal and are one of the acts I’m the most excited about watching develop. “Netherwards” is wickedly awesome, an album that’s an early contender for best-of honors in 2012.

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