One’s childhood can be an amazing place, filled with colorful memories that bring us through our lives and transform us into better people. Bad ones can scar us for life and prevent us from ever climbing back from the damage done during that time. There also are those that don’t really reveal themselves to us until we’re much older and trying to retrace where we’ve been and how we’ve developed.
Zachary Kerr, vocalist and lyricist for black metal squadron Anagnorisis, has gone through quite a discovery of self the past few years, and that bleeds into the band’s incredible new record “Peripeteia,” which acts as his autobiography. The word itself stands for a sudden reversal of fortunes or change in circumstances that typically occurs after a moment of self-recognition (also known as anagnorisis), and things start moving their way toward their conclusion. For Kerr, much of this was spawned after finding two cassettes from his childhood, one from 1982 and one from 1987, where he basically is interviewed and discussed, a strange dissection of a kid’s psyche at such a fragile age. As it goes on, the other voices on the tape, I assume his mother and late father, can be heard giving advice to, admonishing, and praising young Kerr, all of which is looped throughout the record and moves the narrative. This story is interwoven into the themes of their last record, 2013’s tremendous “Beyond All Light” (we reviewed it here), as the first six tracks act as that album’s prequel, the final two as the prequel.
Anagnorisis, who hail from Louisville, have been making some of the most dynamic and interesting black metal in the entire United States scene. Eschewing Satan and death and blood, this band instead has turned their focus inward, exploding things that create true misery and blackness. Along with Kerr are guitarist Zak Denham, bassist Josh Mumford, and keyboardist/sax player/ programmer Samuel Hartman, and they’ve created a dramatic, heart-stopping record that feels even larger and more impactful considering these songs were pulled from Kerr’s life and development as a human. Yeah, the playing is unreal and impressive, but the emotional content is just as rich.
“Transparent -” opens the record with quiet chiming and glorious melodies, introducing us for the first time to the young Kerr and his life. “Disgust and Remorse Part I” then rips open, as savagery unfolds, fierce vocals pierce the flesh, and melodies flood everywhere. More dialog from the tapes works its way through, while the music starts to dizzy and disorient. “Stripped of all defenses!” Kerr howls, as the emotion and tragedy collide, spilling into “Disgust and Remorse Part II.” There, strong black metal-style guitars tear out, with Kerr acknowledging, “My biggest weakness is my strongest enemy,” that later paves the way toward the heartbreaking, and all-too-close-to-home line, “Without the ownership of guilt, I have nothing else to cling to.” Strong soloing fans the flames, as the track gets uglier and more scar-infested as it goes on. “5306 Morningside” has guitars awakening, and more dialog from the tapes spills into the picture. The bulk of the track is destructive and smears heart content all over the place. “Night Skies Over Nothingness” has noise loops, quiet guitars, and eerie keyboards that bleed through the impending chaos. Once the track gets going, it’s crunchy and violent, but when Kerr’s dialog as a child breaks in, he sounds confused and unsteady. Riffs spiral and pay off that imbalance, while the growls crush and grind, with everything ending with a heartbeat. Then comes the title track, with Kerr’s mother reflecting on her own mother’s death and hauntingly singing “Cruising Down the River.” It feels like a dream. Out of that, the track explodes, with punishing harsh growls from Kerr, as he wails his heart out. The track actually gets kind of catchy in spots, as choral sections spiral into the void and start-stop mashing leaves bruises. “I now know myself and trust no one!” Kerr howls, suddenly enlightened, and the end has organs spilling and soloing scalding, leading to the sequel section.
“Metamorphosis” has more of a rock feel to it and it unleashes, though eventually the rage rises up and boils over, and the track feels like a bloodletting. “Time reigns supreme, yet no wounds heal,” Kerr levels, and then strings rise up and sweep in the drama. The track is engulfed with chaos, as the guitars start to breathe fire, and the song explodes completely. The playing is blinding, as it feels like trying to withstand a hurricane, only to fold. “Staring into the eyes of the enemy, which is me!” Kerr belts, making an indefinite wound on your psyche, and that punishment gives way and heads toward finale, “Transparent +.” The interview clips slip in again, as strange music flows, and cleanly sung lines swell. The song then lights up fully, as roared vocals push violently, and the same chimed lines that greeted us at the start brings the record to its end. But if you listen on repeat, you’ll notice the finish essentially loops back to the start.
If it was understanding, closure, or healing Kerr has been seeking all of this time, hopefully he found what he was looking for. The music and themes on “Peripeteia” are as jarring and massive as anything this band has done before, and the heart of the matter is what has become of one of the band’s central members and where he goes from here. This is a record that should retain its relevance well into the future, because these are themes that make up all of us in one way or another, and it could become a companion for us when we experience our own awakenings.
For more on the band, go here: http://666.anagnorisis.com/
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