With a cursory listen to Anagnorisis’ second full length, BEYOND ALL LIGHT, it’s obvious that these guys are very talented musicians with a strong sense of where they’re going and a stronger sense of the sound that’s going to take them there. Dig a little deeper and listen a little closer and you catch a bit of the problem that is endemic of a lot of self-produced, self-released music: The production and the mix seem a bit muddy, particularly throughout the first half. It’s not unlistenable… believe me, I’ve heard worse! There are points where the instruments are practically discernable from each other and the vocals seem to be just low enough in the mix to be an annoyance. Maybe I’m missing something… maybe the band is taking Motorhead’s credo of “Everything louder than everything else” to its ultimate conclusion. Whatever… I did hear enough that I liked to tell you about the good stuff. So…
The album is played out as two dark suites of three songs each. The first, encompassing the tunes “Eulerian Path,” “This Cursed Blood,” and “Death Mimics Life,” delivers a brutal display of abuse and despair. Here’s where the mix comes in to play. With the vocals low in the mix, the lyrics lose most of the emotional impact. I’ve heard (and liked) plenty of vocalists who perform in this fashion (gutteral barks sounding as if they emanate from the very bowels of Hell) but… I don’t know. It could be that Zachary Kerr (the band’s former bassist turned front man) has a higher pitched voice than is usually heard in such settings; more likely, it’s just a matter of his voice being buried in the swirling eddy of almost incomprehensible violence coming from the instruments’ unrelenting barrage.
“Abyss,” “Bountiful Godless Life” and “Forever Night” comprise the second black suite. It is a distinct sonic improvement over the first half of the record. The vocals are pushed out front… not much, but just enough to make them more understandable. In the context of a better mix, Kerr’s voice and unconventional delivery really grows on you and even, in certain passages, shines. Likewise, the guitars and utilitarian keyboards aren’t faded into the miasmic background, allowing the listener to bask in the precise lead and rhythm work and fluid solos of Zak Denham (who also mixed). It also unmuddies the excellent work of the rhythm section (newest members, bassist Josh Mumford – with both Kerr and Denham adding bass parts, as well – and drummer Chris Smith, ably assisted by keyboardist Samuel Hartman, whose work I’ve already mentioned). Every record I own (the big vinyl things that you have to flip over to hear everything) has a favored side. Though side one of BEYOND ALL LIGHT isn’t bad, it’s side two that’ll get the most spins on my turntable.