[Artwork by Adam Burke / Nightjar Illustration]
Despite having spent many years focusing on creative endeavors such as writing, drawing cartoons, and designing book covers, I do not consider myself an artist. I would say I’m a pretty creative individual, but I’ve never found the ideal medium vital for fully tempering creativity into something I’d actually consider art. Here’s a question I’ve struggled with all along the way: Does the artist find the medium, or does the medium find the artist? And the sobering followup question: When does one finally admit they’re… maybe just not meant to be an artist? The answer to the latter, thankfully, is never.
In the meantime, I remain wholly and joyously addicted to the tireless pursuit and assimilation of the creative process, surrounding myself with as much art from as many different mediums as possible, and consistently finding myself floored by those individuals who seem so naturally adept at tapping some molten pool of originality and vision. If you give me a window into your creative process, I will watch it like a Cro-Magnon witnessing the very first bone tool construction, and I will not fear the fire.
Balance! Yes, balance is absolutely vital to Anachronism’s success, with each person’s role given judicious and prominent consideration. This is far from rare in technical death metal of this ilk, but a record like Meanders assertively invites the listener to revisit time and again with a different player as the central focus. In that regard, it feels a bit like Defeated Sanity’s The Sanguinary Impetus, but with a stronger emphasis on dissonant leeway. In particular, the bass play throughout these 33 minutes really jumps out—fat, loose, inordinately chewable bass that’s always hustling to get things done, and whose delivery appears to be split between album mix / masterer Alex Sedin (ghostalgy) and the return of Julien Waroux, who played with Anachronism in the years that bridged their 2012 debut Senseless and 2018’s excellent sophomore effort, Orogeny.
It’s not just the bass that will make your ears blow a gasket, though. If you remain unfamiliar with Florent Duployer’s work behind the kit in any of his bands, you should fix that before the next sunrise, and then walk into this record with the understanding that he’s about to render a perfect storm of full-scale savagery that’s counterbalanced by a wonderfully deft and graceful hand when the mood suddenly shifts to something lighter. And yes, the mood here absolutely does go lighter, particularly in the songs penned by guitarist Manu Le Bé (“Prism” and “Insula”) that find an extra level of curious optimism in their whirlwind rush, but also in the way he and principal songwriter / vocalist / lyricist / rifflord Lisa Voisard up the ante with regard to the record’s more atmospheric face. Where the previous record experimented with pleasant melody and atmosphere, Meanders feels as if that side of the band has finally become fully realized. It’s still something that’s used fairly economically, but the bursts of melody on this record are utterly charming and give the full ride so much more to grab hold of. Check out the midpoint of “Sources,” which the band was kind enough to already release last year as a single leading up to Meanders.
Predominantly noisy and suited for encouraging an odd strut that will by jingo get you some stares on the street, “Source” also throws down a splendidly amiable drift and shimmer at its midpoint and again around 3:30 that could conjure images of Mithras or Sarpanitum, and the way the song drifts further into the darkness of space toward its close feels a bit like a favorable collision between Voivod and Godflesh. All of it smashed together renders a wonderfully unique mixture of tempers and tones, and while I’d like to delve deeper into the technical aspects of the band’s zigzagging dissonance, I never managed to get much further than 2nd chair as a high school band saxophonist, so doing so would probably be akin to asking your Golden Retriever to explain how your car’s transmission works. ARF! Suffice to say, endless angles are explored through the use of what seems like nine million notes, yet it’s all pieced together in a way that not only makes sense, it’s… pleasant and even manages to exude a strong sense of optimism, which is very refreshing.
Hopefully you’re aware of this, but Last Rites recently devoted three days and three articles to our most anticipated metal releases of 2023. Meanders would have been an easy pick for me had I not already realized its merit through the grace of early promo access that landed the record in my ears back in December. I jumped on that email like a cat on a ping pong ball, having long since familiarized myself with Anachronism through the notably underrated Orogeny. Now, with the benefit of three weeks of fairly obsessive play, I am comfortable stating Meanders is far and away the best work the band has done to date. And much like that cat pouncing on a ping pong ball and batting it left and right and into every conceavable corner, I am left with the a similar conclusion: I don’t really know how it works, but holy shmoly do I ever love it.
Oh, hey! Still here? Perhaps this would be a good time to mention something about the album artwork attached to Meanders. By now you’re likely well aware of Adam Burke / Nightjar Illustration, but this particular piece feels like a slight departure. Still otherworldly, as is typical of his work, but a smaller snapshot in lieu of the more full-scale approach Burke generally seems to favor. It’s actually very suited to what’s happening here in that it finds a way to, 1) Propose a loose definition of the band’s name—Anachronism: a thing belonging or appropriate to a period other than that in which it exists—by depicting an abundantly flowing river on what appears to be our moon, and 2) It provides a unique illustration of the band’s spontaneous affect in the way a river has a clear beginning and endpoint, but how that resolute flow reaches its conclusion allows plenty of room for some surprising and perhaps unanticipated avenues. I love it when a plan comes together.