You remember that godawful REM song from way back, “Shiny Happy People?”
The people that Michael Stipe was singing about… well, they weren’t the guys in Anatomia, that’s for sure. To all outward appearances, these are some morose, decidedly unshiny fellows here.
Of course, I kid: It’s certainly not my place to psychoanalyze this Japanese duo when we all know that metalheads’ personalities are very often in seeming opposition to the ugliness of their chosen form of entertainment. It’s highly likely that a career’s-worth of crawling, trudging, incredibly oppressive death/doom is an excellent means of catharsis, of exorcising one’s inner negativity, and maybe outside, the Anatomia fellows are all smiles and unicorns and Hello Kitty and happiness.
It’s just that it certainly doesn’t sound like it.
Now nearly twenty years into that career, Anatomia blesses us with a fourth full-length’s worth of absolutely soul-ravaging bleakness, of sluggish riffs and guttural grunts that drag on for nearly inhuman lengths, decaying into the aether like the dying exhortations of some gasping kaiju. With the departure of guitarist Yukiyasu Fukaya about two years ago, Anatomia was reduced to the two-piece of Jun Tonosaki (bass / vocals) and Takashi Tanaka (drums / vocals), but their mission statement hasn’t changed: Classic, raw, ugly, doomy death metal, like Autopsy on Quaaludes after a particularly tough day.
From there, with each track, Corporeal Torment gets increasingly more oppressive. “Slime Of Putrescense” continues in much the same slow-rolling vein, nearly nine minutes of the most agonizing death/doom you’d ever want to hear, at some points almost inhumanly slow and equally depressive, and at others pushing onward with the patient weightiness of a steamroller stuck in second gear. As if the whole of that wasn’t creepy-crawly enough, as this particular world-weary monster strides into the sunset, distant clean-tone notes float hazily behind the gnarled strings, a subtlety that only adds to the sadness. Haunting chants buoy the drifting doom of third number “Despaired Void” — and could there be a more apropos song title for any of this? — a forward lurch that devolves into a free-form burst of random bass runs and samples.
Still, as absolutely soul-wrenching as the slow descent into madness is, the arc of unrelenting decay that spans across those three tracks, the album’s pinnacle lies in the 20-minute, full-album-side misery of “Mortem,” a piece of death/doom so funereal and atmospheric that it almost crosses into the ambient, and yet, one that somehow manages to remain cohesive and engaging across its lengthy run-time. At this point, I’m running out of ways to say that Anatomia is crushing, heavy, bleak, and just when you think they’ve hit another emotional nadir, “Mortem” comes along and digs the pit quite a bit deeper. It’s not an easy listen, nor is it a particularly traditionally fun one, but it is a cathartic one, an interesting one, and an enjoyable one, even as it plumbs depths of emotion most of us try to avoid.
So this music is not shiny, no: It’s raw, rotten, oozing putrid foulness. And also, this music is definitely not happy. But then again, that’s the entire point, and scant few bands do despondency this devilishly delightful. In the pantheon of Anatomia, Corporeal Torment may not be quite as strong as the two previous full-lengths, both of which are stellar, but it’s still a very very good death/doom album, and Anatomia continues to kill.
Dive in and get bleak. Put it in your heart where tomorrow never shines.