When a friend introduced me to ANATA's 2003 full length, "Under A Stone With No Inscription", I was utterly floored. Just as I thought Death Metal was going completely stagnant and that everything had already been done before, or "to death" so to speak (nyuk nyuk), along come these Swedes that left me speechless with their ingenious and fresh style of riffing, spectacular drumming courtesy of the great Conny Pettersson (formerly of ETERNAL LIES and ROTINJECTED) and all done very tastefully while avoiding the bloat of an overly busy record that seems to plague many technical Death Metal bands. Needless to say, I was nearly wet with anticipation of their new record. Such anticipation was well-deserved...
What first greeted me was a very pleasing production, the guitars sounding a little less raunchy than on UASWNI (how's that for an acronym?) but definitely more "organic" and coherent. You can still hear every bit of the fabulous bass playing and Conny's drums sound as great as ever. Instantly after the building up intro you are pummeled by the familiar dual guitar riff attack, weaving in and out of each other, playing off of every sick drum fill. Speaking of which, there is not one solitary SECOND of filler on this entire album. Every note has a purpose and this becomes very apparent about halfway through the first track ("Downward Spiral Into Madness") where ANATA illustrates that their true strength isn't merely in their melodic sense... but in their HARMONIC sense. This record has some of the best harmonies I've ever heard in heavy music, breaking away from the traditional major 3rd symmetric lines of bands like ARSIS and performing full-on counterpoint, doing completely different things that make perfect sense and weaving a vibrant tapestry of music. When the third track began, "Better Grieved Than Fooled", my breath was completely stolen from me as one of the most powerful beginnings I've ever heard in a song annihilated my senses. Rarely do you hear passages as majestic and awe-inspiring as this... and later in the song, the song breaks into a clean section that's like waking up from a dream. Brilliant legato lines swirl fluidly through your speakers, approaching a climactic build-up to a reprise of the astounding beginning, which continues to floor me every time.
Another track that deserves its own paragraph of unadorned adulation is the instrumental of "Children's Laughter", which is almost entirely clean guitars... and containing one most incredible and memorable drum performance I've witnessed since Sean Reinert recorded "Focus" for CYNIC (a band that ANATA continues to remind me of in many ways and there's no greater compliment than that). The song serves as the intro to "Renunciation", which is yet another masterpiece - one thing this album certainly isn't short on. "Children's Play" alone elevated this record, for me, elevated this record from being merely the best Metal record I've heard in 2006 to one of my all-time favorites.
Easily an early contender for album of the year and deserving a place in my top 10 Death Metal records of all time! Buy this album the very MOMENT it is available to you and witness the rebirth of heavy music! (Online July 19, 2006)