There’s a history of otherworldly aesthetics in heavy metal, and debatably the sub-genre most guilty of this is black metal. Often aiming for an evil or inhuman appearance, black metallers have long covered themselves in corpse paint, adorned album covers with Satanic imagery and indecipherable band logos and used pseudonyms plucked straight out of horror novels and Satanic literature. All of this, one could argue, seeks to distract from the human nature of the music, but it is also the result of a genre that embraces ideals like iconoclasm, pride and self-rule. American metallers Anagnorisis care more about the latter than the former. The band’s third full-length, Peripeteia, created after the passing of frontman Zachery Kerr’s father, is a cathartic and authentic release with genuine emotional weight that burns up the black metal rule book and forges something original from the ashes. It’s a hard-hitting release, but one that doesn’t shy away from what black metal is really about – independence.
The loss of Kerr’s father seeps into the touching emotive side of the music, and the album is interspersed with audio tapes from Kerr’s childhood that he found after returning to his parents’ home. Peripeteia uses blistering black metal, brooding shoegaze textures, gothic gloom and crushing post-hardcore to tell a personal tale for Kerr, whilst also breeding an entirely a creative and original take on black metal. It’s fair to assume that some resent being pigeonholed into metal’s endless sub-genres, but there’s a broad range of bands now categorised within black metal, arguably meaning there’s enough space to innovate and experiment without too many purists accusing you of the leaving the genre. “Black metal to me means liberation,” says Zak Denham, the band’s guitarist. “Liberation from the standards and musical rules that define what is acceptable. This liberation could also be called freedom, and we all know from [former Gorgoroth frontman] Gaahl’s famous interview that freedom = Satan, and Satan = freedom. Thus, to me, black metal = Satan.”
“Freedom from the constraints of convention is paramount to Anagnorisis creating music,” he notes. This attitude extends throughout the creative process, and Denham, as the band’s chief songwriter, envisions the potential musical creation as its own entity, perhaps even a human being. “I try to make my musical and aural decisions to respect that ‘goal’ of a being,” he explains. “This pursuit of respect often manifests itself in experimental ways, integrating all sorts of different instruments, sounds, rhythms, harmonies, cadences and effects, even mixing techniques, leading me to create a ‘being’ that I view as being an upstanding exhibition of the album’s thesis.”
With each release, these techniques seem to push Anagnorisis’ sound further and further from traditional genre conventions. When asked if this is their aim, Denham explains, “I believe creating good art often involves challenges. Challenging ourselves to create works that are innovative and inspiring means that we have to look past the typical conventions of our genre and music production in general. Our aim for each release is to create a unique artefact, an aural movie that moves the listener/viewer. How else would this be created without pushing the envelope? Peripeteia does this in spades. Pushing the aural envelope with a large variety of instruments and effects whilst also integrating the tape samples from Zachary Kerr’s childhood. Conceptually, the cyclical design of Peripeteia, Beyond All Light and the integration of both records in a macro cycle pushes the envelope of what a contemporary metal composition looks like.”
Indeed, freedom, be it from genre limitations, religion, fascism or anything else, is a mainstay throughout Anagnorisis’ work, not only in terms of boundary-defying instrumentation, but thematically, with the band’s name itself supposedly meaning “self-realization and personal discovery.” Such themes tie in nicely with the atheistic, and occasionally Satanic, motifs all over also clear throughout Anagnorisis’ work, given that they seem to favour personal achievement over those valued by any kind of God. “Our EP Alpha And Omega was titled that for precisely this reason,” explains Samuel Hartman, the band’s keyboardist. “You – the individual – are the beginning and the end, not God. We spoke out against religion on [2007’s] Overton Trees and have continued to do all the way through Peripeteia, while still following the path of our protagonist’s (in this case our vocalist) narrative.”
Things are looking bright for Anagnorisis – the band have just completed a show with extreme metal goliaths Behemoth in Louisville and are planning to embark on a three-week tour in October, where they’ll be visiting the Midwest and West Coast of America. Beyond that, all may be quiet on the Anagnorisis front for the rest of the year, but the boundary-pushing power and emotional weight of Peripeteia provides a unique listening experience that should tide fans over until work eventually begins on a follow-up.
You’ll be able to catch the rest of this feature in Issue 2 of Astral Noize, coming soon. Peripetia is available to buy here.