Style: Melodic Black/Death Metal
Release Date: 9 Sep 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Finally, I find a Portuguese band who don't play instrumental psychedelic rock! I should add that I've really dug those varied instrumental psychedelic rock albums. There's something in the water down in Portugal that makes that stuff work really well and I'm sure I'll be reviewing a lot more of it in the future. But for the first time this year, here's something else!
Anifernyen play melodic death metal but in a heavily black metal influenced style. Or hey, maybe they play melodic black metal with a death influence. I have to say that they balance these two disparate styles so well that it's hard to tell what the band's initial focus was. Even the name fails to tell that, as it would fit either genre. It's an ancient Breton way of describing Hell: "an ifern yen" translating to "a cold hell".
Surprisingly, given that this is their debut album, they were formed as long ago as 2003. It looks like they stayed together until 2010, issuing one EP, The Pledge of Chaos, in 2008. They reformed in 2016, with a new bass player and drummer. Ricardo Vieira also handles bass duties for thrash band Buried Alive. Hugo Almeida is clearly in demand, as he sits behind the kit for five active bands, including notably Inthyflesh, and he has another six under his belt from prior years, including, again, Buried Alive.
Almeida makes his presence massively obvious here, because the drums are a black metal blitzkrieg. They're tight and they're high in the mix. What's more, even if he plays slowly, relatively speaking, he continues to do very interesting things with his rhythms and fills. There's a lot of cymbal work going on too. He's very impressive and the rest of the group have to work hard to keep up with him.
Other than Almeida, most obvious here is Daniel Lucas, the lead vocalist. He displays a versatility with his voice that's needed for an album that works across two different genres. Frankly, if he hadn't been up to the challenge, this album would not be as successful as it is. He has a warm and enunciated death growl but he's able to shift it into a bleaker register when he wants to emphasise the black aspects. He doesn't shriek particularly, but he gets a lot harsher. I liked his whispering approach on Christendoom too.
As tends to be the case nowadays, we have to listen very closely to hear the bass, which contributes more as a layer than a separate instrument. It does make it through everything else at points, especially on Foreshadowing, and also on Christendoom, but it never makes it to the front of our attention.
There are two guitarists, Luis Ferreira and Diogo Malheiro, and they often fall into the mix too. The riffs are deep and dark and the solos a lot less frequent than I expected. Even the melodies are surprisingly subsumed by the backing though, when they really come out to play, they're solid. There are strong moments soloing on Graveborn, building Voleur D'âmes and contributing in a number of ways to standout tracks like Foreshadowing, Christendoom and Wormwood.
As if to show their disdain for genre boundaries, Anifernyen step away from the black/death style at moments. Emissary gets a little thrashy for a while and Foreshadowing starts out (and returns to) being very doomy. A number of tracks on the second half have a doom/death feel to them, regardless of pace. That really works for me. Oh, and if anyone doubted a Celtic Frost influence, the death grunt on Deadite ought to settle that.
And this album really works for me. I wasn't impressed on a first listen but a second sold it on me and it's got better and more immersive each further time through. It's good stuff indeed and it proves that there's more than a single musical style in play in Portugal nowadays.