ANATA - The Conductor's Departure
Wow. I could just end this review right there, but it wouldn't do this masterpiece justice. If I could give this album 100 stars I would. This is currently my favorite album of all time (unless Anata manages to top this with their upcoming fifth full-length, which wouldn't surprise me). Their fourth album, "The Conductor's Departure", is an achievement that the majority of death metal bands nowadays could only dream of. This is THE album of 2006 and for good reason.
This album shows Anata evolving yet again. Where UASWNO was an insane barrage of technicality, this album utilizes technicality to craft dark, emotional, and beautiful songs. This is probably Anata's most progressive album to date. Speed is not as emphasized here, instead relying on a variety of tempos. Vocalist/guitarist Fredrik Schalin's growls are a bit deeper here than on previous records. Whether this is from age or intentional, it's his best to date. The guitarwork is just godly. The band have put more focus on melody this time around. The riffing is still insane and technical, but it isn't as free flowing as it was on the last album. Instead, the varieties of riffs are more structured to fit the amazing songs on display here. There's melody, prog noodling, jazzy and classical bits in the form of dissonant riffs and arpeggios, but maintained through a dark, emotional filter. Despite the virtuosity displayed here, they make it sound so modest throughout the entire album. Leads and solo are pushed to the front again after being toned down a bit on the last effort. The leads here are also much more melodic and classically influenced than on the last album. The progressive metal guitar influences are at their peak here. Conny's drumming has also gotten more progressive. There are less blastbeats here and more emphasis on odd time signatures and tempo changes. Henrik even has a stonger presence, as his basslines are often heard grooving throughout the songs. In fact, calling this a progressive death metal album wouldn't be far off. The brutality is still there, but it is now utilized to form the technicality and complexity of the songs. The songs are also a bit longer than on previous albums, which gives them more room to breathe. Anyway, lets see what makes this album so amazing:
Downward Spiral Into Madness: An abstract guitar melody fades into the song. It then begins blasting away with technical riffs, followed by more prog-death riffing. The tempo then slows down a bit as a slow arpeggio melody is played on both guitars. This part is very catchy and WILL get stuck in your head. Schalin's growls are quite deeper than usual here. More abstract melody pops up, then switches back to blasting and dissonant riffing. More proggy riffing pops up, then shifting into another slow arpeggio. The lyrics are awesome too (it's about time a death metal band exploited scientology!) A quick drum fill at 2:54 leads into one of the most amazing melodies I've ever heard. Seriously, it's complex, yet it's also very melancholy. Yes, that's right. A tech-death album that's melancholy. It's underlined with some great double-bass work. A nice bassline leads into more abstract riffs. Conny shows off a bit on the drums before the tempo picks up, followed by more guitar noodling. At 4:14 a melodic neoclassical solo pops up, courtesy of Schalin. The tech riffing drives the song into the moody melody from earlier, which drives the end of the song.
Complete Demise: Time to go back to the last album for a bit. Some death metal riffs alternate between arpeggios until the focus switches to some weird riffs. The song then begins blasting away, and then shifts back to more technical guitarwork. Conny gets some nice fills as our guitar twins alternate between tech-death riffing and prog riffing. The tempo stays pretty upbeat until about 2:21, where we are treated to a nice solo. The song then goes into a nice midtempo groove. The tempo changes again to more blasting and angular guitar riffs. Another solo pops up, this one coming from Allenmark. Clusters of technical riffing end this song.
Better Grieved Than Fooled: This song starts with nice dual arpeggio melodies, then shifts into some blasting and tremolo riffing, then shifts into some drum fills and proggy riffing. This is followed by some uptempo drum beats and some more noodly riffing. This continues until about 1:30 where technical riffs and blasting pop up. At 1:50, the song shifts into a cool, atmospheric jazzy section, accompanied by a melodic jazz-style solo. At 3:05 this jazz melody carries over a breakdown. Some more technical riffing picks up at 3:08, then falls back. It picks up again at 4:03, with the tempo picking up with more arpeggios. At 4:28 tradeoff solo pops up. More blasting and contrasting prog and death metal riffing ensues. A dissonant riff pops up to keep things interesting. This continues until the end of the song.
The Great Juggler: This song is a favorite of mine. The song opens up with a catchy drum fill and basslines, followed by extremely catchy guitar riffs. This is followed by more complex guitar riffing. Some blasting and technical death metal riffs lead to a more midpaced section. Some dissonant melodies and proggy drumming carry the song until 1:41, where an emotional melody pops up. This continues until 2:30, where another amazing technical melody pops up. This shifts back into the brain boggling riffs as the song grooves along. The amazing melody pops up again at about 4:27, followed by more catchy riffs. At 5:05 the tempo goes up again with more proggy riffs and blasting. A neoclassical solo by Allanmark(!) pops up to end the song.
Cold Heart Forged in Hell: This song opens up with a neoclassical melody. This is followed by a technical riff, leading to a nice melodic solo before more proggy riffs lead to some amazing melodic guitar riffs. More dissonant and technical death metal riffs intertwine with proggy riffs and snappy drumming. A drum fill by Conny at 1:50 leads to more blasting and abstract melodic riffing. This leads to some crunchy death metal riffing. The same melodic guitar riff from earlier comes back. More of the angular riffs lead the song to prog melodies laced with catchy drumming. Catchy but complex riffing and blasting carries the song to 4:00, where the band shifts into a Morbid Angel style breakdown with the same melody to end off the song. I applaud Anata for making a song about love not sound weak.
I Would Dream of Blood: Now here's something Anata has never done before. On this song, Anata try their take at a down tempo song, and it almost resembles a more technical version of Morbid Angel's "Where The Slime Live". It begins with some cymbal work, a thumpy bassline, and droning dissonant riffs. Another new aspect of this song is that there isn't a blastbeat in sight. Anyways, more dissonant doom-death riffs crush you like a tank while double bass forces the impact of the riffs. It then flows into a subtle lead melody. It then flows back into more catchy riffs. Henrik's basslines are more audible here than ever. At about 4:10, a groovy riff mows you down along with more double bass work. Anata actually managed to make a technical doom-death song, which seems like an oxymoron, but you'll hear it.
Disobedience Pays: The song opens up with some technical riffing and some cool drum patterns. A drum fill by Conny leads into more abstract riff webs courtesy of our duo Schalin and Allenmark. More blastbeats and prog riffing. This song contains some of the most memorable riffs on the album. More noodling and great drumming move the song along. This album's equivalent of "Dance to the Song of Apathy" is here, as Conny experiments with all different kinds of techniques. The riffs at 3:08 are so catchy you'd be stupid not to headbang! After more blasting and abstract riffing, the catchy riff returns. Then some militaristic drums move along with some crunchier technical riffing from earlier. Some more crushing riffs end this song.
Children's Laughter: Here's another thing Anata has never done before: an instrumental song. And it's not them shredding all over the place or anything like that. In fact, this sounds like some that Katatonia would do! It's actually kinda cool that they have a minimalist track in between all of this technical insanity. It mostly consists of one clean guitar melody with some guitar feedback. Conny does do a huge drum solo towards the end. Pretty cool track. This fades into...
Renunciation: Some melodic death metal riffing begins this song, accompanied by some blastbeats. The melodic tech-death riffs continue until about 0:48, where a dissonant melody is accompanied by more blasting and uptempo drumming. Schalin's growls are very catchy here. This then leads to some riffs with clean guitar underlying it. At 2:05 the song cuts to an extremely catchy melody. The melodic tech-death riffing returns, leading into more labyrinthine riffing, with a short bass fill. A nice drum pattern leads to some weird chromatic riffing. Schalin pitches a short guitar solo at 4:06 before returning to the clean guitar part. It then leads to the memorable melody from earlier. The song ends with some neoclassical prog noodling.
The Conductor's Departure: As usual, Anata ends their album with an epic track, clocking in at eight and a half minutes. The song begins with a drum solo, followed by some slow, dissonant guitar riffs. This goes on until 1:34, where a catchy tech-death riff is accompanied by blastbeats. The lyrics in this song are really unique, using an orchestra as a metaphor. At 2:21, a depressing arpeggio pretty much forces it's way into your mind forever. After some marching riffs and a spoken word section, the song then shifts back to more blasting and more melodic tech-death riffing. This song is the pinnacle of what makes this band great: technicality, brutality, and emotion combined into one. The catchy riffing returns with some furious drumming. The depressing arpeggio comes back and drags you down with it. At 5:47, Schalin and Allenmark play their last tradeoff solo section together (Allenmark just recently left the band, but I'm confident Schalin will pick somebody who can fill in his shoes). The tempo changes for the millionth time back to the part at the beginning, which closes the song.
This album is so great, it changed my life, and it still has that effect on me. Unless Anata manage to keep this streak going, this has my vote for the best death metal album ever. It has everything: technicality and progressiveness, speed and brutality, emotion and melody, memorability and catchiness, all molded together to create ten works of art in the technical death metal community. This album is THE album of 2006, hands down. I don't care what you have to do to get this album, but get it!
Do I Recommend: Owning this album should be required by law!