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Germany’s Anael have certainly come a long way since their initial Samael-heavy sound. Only previously hearing 2003’s split with Lust previously, I was not prepared for “From Arcane Fires”, although I was well informed how much the band’s style had evolved. Anael play a much richer, more textured, and more varied style of black metal than they ever have before. One could argue that this is similar to where bands like Alcest are going, playing shoegaze with a black metal tinge. This is quite the opposite. “From Arcane Fires” may appear to have some softer moments, but the actual riff phrasing, melodies, and overall atmosphere are stunningly sinister. Not only that, it was recorded live - so this isn’t overdubbed to hell with sappy effects. In other words, Anael trumps a lot of bands that try to add some sort of shoegaze influence. Compared to “On Wings of Mercury”, the faster, more abrupt predecessor to this record, Anael has really let their songs breath more, and have benefited greatly in the songwriting department due to this. Each song has its own dynamics to it, interacting in interesting catch-and-release patterns. “She Is Ever A Moon”, for example, has traces of their Samael influence still with parts of droning simplicity, but keep it fresh in their own sound. Much of Anael’s unique sound has much to do with their phrasing techniques. The melodies have a lot in common with middle eastern or other exotic scales, and Anael use this to their advantage to create a very eerie atmosphere, as seen in “Down Winding Stairs” where they are used to build up to aggressive blast beat sections. This song alone has some of the most stand out riffs on the record, even including some fantastic bass work to boot. The production on this recording is very organic and natural sounding. As I mentioned, it was recorded live, so there’s no real bullshit here. You can make out the bass lines quite easily, the guitars are at a relaxed place in the mix, and the drums sound as if you were standing there. For the style achieved here, the live production fits perfectly - even if it’s warm for a black metal album. Anael have made a real standout record, and it manages to stay evil and avoid the pitfalls that many other bands trying to add some progressive elements to their black metal fall into (ie: Nachtmystium). The key is in the arrangements, and “From Arcane Fires” contains some finely composed tunes. I will certainly be keeping my eye on them as they’ve proven to progress in an interesting way.
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