Black Anvil – As Was (Relapse)

Thursday, 5th January 2017
Rating: 8/10

The melodic aspect of New York’s Black Anvil has always been hovering around, but has never quite been fully exploited until now. Their 2010 semi-gem Triumvirate and 2014’s not-as-good Hail Death were both USBM wrap-arounds, with the occasional look toward Dissection and Necrophobic. As Was, though, turns the four-piece around, moving them further away from their black metal foundation into more listenable, even palatable territories with more…clean vocals. While this may rankle the BM rank-and-file, the fact of the matter is As Was is Black Anvil’s best effort to date.

The additional incorporation of clean vocals (which we’ll get to in a moment) has done little to spurn the traditional black hammer-drop of opener “On Forgotten Ways,” which is a certifiable solid way to start As Was, simplistic manner and all. The melodic turns start on “May Her Wrath Be Just Sent,” going full-bore on the excellent “Nothing,” which rattles off an ‘80s metal-esque break near the song’s conclusion. Such harmonious guitar playing hovers over the rest of the album’s running order, highlighting “Two Keys: Here’s the Lock” and album closer “Ultra.”

“Ultra” is worth mentioning again, for the vocal interplay between bassist Paul Delaney and guitarist Gary Bennett is a clear-cut album highlight, and perhaps a bold new frontier for the band. Not only do their vocals play off one another with relative ease, it represents an added layer of sonic intrigue for a band who is clearly making inroads at getting out of the mid-tier American extreme metal bog-a-thon. Sure enough, “Ultra” could piss-off Black Anvil’s black metal contingent. If that happens, then mission accomplished. If not, As Was still stands on its own, showing Black Anvil are more than meets the (initial) eye.

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