Anima Nera - Anima Nera
Stereo Recording Company
Melodic Extreme Metal Hybrid
10 songs (45'42")
Release year: 2002
Reviewed by Alex

What would be some of the “non-metal” locations in the world? Sahara Desert? Amazon River basin? OK, in the US. How about the superconservative Mormon church run State of Utah? The place where the bars have 3 am curfew, young people can not drink caffeine, much less alcohol, on campus (BYU). The place where premarital sex is equal to a crime, but polygamy is still acknowledged if not accepted. Can a metal band come out of such a place? Anima Nera is certainly making a valiant try.

A couple of CDs from Stereo Recording Company in Salt Lake City, UT fell into my hands lately. A couple of them, Hammergun’s Texas and The Kill’s Extended Play, come from the hardcore scene and I would do the injustice trying to review something I don’t like as a style overall. Anima Nera, on the other hand, is a different beast with its self-titled debut, definitely metal and surprisingly not all that bad. As little information as the promo booklet bears all I can tell you that Anima Nera has 5 members, and the band comes from Salt Lake City.

It is difficult to pigeonhole Anima Nera’s style; they stand at the confluence of so many metal directions. American nu-metal hefty riffing, Gothenburg style melodies and leads, extreme vocals, some hardcore tendencies. Throughout the whole album dual guitars (or at least I assume the band has two guitarists) do battle. Downtuned, fuzzy, heavy bah-bah riffage serves as an undercurrent for thrashing, swirling cleaner melodic guitar which manages to produce catchy melodies and quite decent leads. The songs can go from chugging three-chord heavy parts to something borrowed at the Swedish shores in a matter of seconds (Beneath these Skies, Somber Eyes). A totally unexpected acoustic passage can be thrown in for good measure as well (Flatline). Some songs are bearing a heavier nu-metal – hardcore mark (At the Feet of the Wicked), and some most definitely can qualify as an American melodic death thrash tradition in the vein of Shadows Fall which the band cites as an influence (Somber Eyes track vs. Shadows Fall demo titled Somber Eyes to the Sky, coincidence?).

Vocally, the attack is dual. Raspy unintelligible black shrieks are doubled over with the lower tone death growls, and even a hint of the cleaner vocals (Beneath These Skies). If Anima Nera leant more towards death metal I would compare the vocal approach to Maurizio Iacono of Kataklysm, but it is certainly less polished and less convincing.

What holds the band back significantly is its rhythm section. The fact that the bass basically follows along to the tune of the downtuned guitar is only half the deal. The drumming is very unimaginative without a hint of rolls or fills. What’s worse, when the drummer tries to speed it up, and create something akin to At The Gates style thrashy groove on The Ashes of Innocence, he simply can’t keep up and slows down the whole movement.

The best songs on the CD appear towards the end with Infected having an ominous introductory narration, dual guitar melodic lead, slow and tortured growl and an acoustic insert. My Razorblade Romance is practically all Gothenburg starting out slow and melodic and gaining in speed and energy as the song rolls along. Inclusion of two unannounced bonus tracks does little for me. A seven minute static fuzz and walky-talky blurred conversations? Please. The closure is a strikingly familiar cover that I simply can’t place.

To sum it up, Anima Nera does not try to emulate, but is not entirely ready to set the standard either. They are not in the same musicians class as, let’s say, Trivium. However, replacing the drummer and cleaning up their production would constitute a giant leap in improvement. The band would do very well trying to secure an opening act spot on the local gig of the MTV2 Headbanger’s Ball Tour which includes Shadows Fall and Killswitch Engage. I really do see Anima Nera as an offshoot of that direction in metal, and the fans of the aforementioned bands may do well in checking out this Utah outfit.

Killing Songs :
Somber Eyes, Flatline, Infected, My Razorblade Romance
Alex quoted 65 / 100
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