Sunday, November 10, 2013

REVIEW: ANODINE - PASSAGES


Although Anodine translates to “harmless” in French, this four-piece from Dusseldorf, Germany play 16 tracks in roughly 80 minutes on Passages that span the entire spectrum of sound, from gentle electric ballads to industrial metal that is anything but “harmless.” In their promo information they describe their own sound as “trip rock,” a term that absolutely captures the spirit of the catchy, driven rhythms and occasional aggression on this debut album. The band’s songwriter, Patrick Heyer, also provides versatile vocals and backing guitar for the album. I’ll discuss his vocals in more depth below, but he does supply a seductive sense of calm even while the bass and drums rumble and the guitars stab at the rhythm with punctuated distortion. Since the band took the time to polish 16 tracks, I’ll do a song-by-song exploration of Passages with some of my thoughts:

1) Antilight - Electro-instrumental track like Goblin mixed with Zombi. This song should have been in Pacific Rim, it feels like the soundtrack for the suspense before a giant robot attack. Heavy synths expertly build tension that is released in the opening moments of the next song.

2) Color Of This Place - A serpentine Deftones riff mixed with an industrial approach. Heyer’s voice reminds me of Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth, when he’s clean-singing and between roars. Moments of light permeate the song, like softer moments from Type O Negative’s October Rust.

3) Dark Side of Venus - A little like post-Follow the Leader Korn, nice thick bass tone with rays of sunlight peering from behind the clouds. Produced really well, nice fuzzy guitar tones and buzzing bass.

4) Into the White Light - Invokes Depeche Mode, if they used harsher tones. Slapping bass provides a nice clang, and the vocals soar with emotion as Heyer hits the higher register notes. Sophisticated, subtle touches with synth strings.

5) Break Away - Nu-metal hardcore that feels like a song-length breakdown. Deep guttural growls, Heyer reminds me of Jonathan Davis again in this song, if Davis took voice lessons. The aggressive approach also reminds me of American Head Charge, without the drug abuse.

6) The Virus - Bass and drum with chiming ethereal guitars to some churning, droning guitars with a catchy percussive beat. Could sneak this into a Massive Attack set list and the audience would think it’s one of the best songs of the night.

7) Hidden Places - Slower industrial ballad that sounds like something I could play while seducing a lady wearing fake fangs in a foggy basement club. Guitars have a little bite around three minutes in.

8) No Summer - Churning, tidal waves of bass from Fabian Siepen. Heyer sings, “You can never feel the summer in your heart.” Appropriate for this song, since it feels like a rainy autumn day.

9) Storm - Slow, radio-friendly song that could be a New Order song if they recruited a more rock-minded drummer like Jörg Skaramaga, who chisels a rhythm out of granite for this track. Feels like an 80s pop song with extra muscle. Although it’s mostly a tease, there’s a rocking riff closing out the song.

10) Dark Field - Heyer’s vocals on this track remind me of Mike Patton’s raspy delivery in his Lovage project, delivering a sort of sleazy, predatory sex appeal that installs a sense of danger.

11) Somewhere Sometime Somehow - A patient, deceptively heavy song with soaring vocals and tasteful supporting synth. If there’s any justice in the world, this would be a theme song for a future James Bond film. It has grace and a refreshing edge.

12) City - Nine Inch Nails introduction, with warped sensuality and mechanical groove. This song features Passages’ most traditional blues-based rock riffs from Rumen Iliev, but they feel fresh here and provide solid hooks. Some of the best drumming of the album from Skaramaga as well, as the song steers into jagged noise rock territory.

13) This Moment - Heavy opening riff feels like Fear Factory, and quickly switches gears into a gentler mode. This song is filled with jarring mood shifts, and while I usually embrace unpredictability, this felt awkward to me overall. If the band slims this album down to an hour or so, I think this is one song I wouldn’t miss.

14) Room 23 - Dramatic, plodding song that lurches with a doomed sensibility. Take one of the softer songs from Bush’s Razorblade Suitcase + a vocalist that can seemingly hit any note + a keyboard player = “Room 23.”

15) Resistance - Another softer song, doesn’t stand out from the rest but does have a head-bobbing rhythm matched with some guitar riffs with attitude. Unfortunately the verse starting 3 minutes in doesn’t fully capitalize on the potential heaviness waiting to explode, but it does layer the guitars and bass well. Another song that I might cut if decreasing the album’s run time to a more manageable 60 minutes.

16) She Calls - A fantastic, impressive song. Godflesh bass and percussive heaviness again matched with haunting guitar tones that seem to sparkle like starlight on a pond at midnight. Great use of stereo as the guitars hack at the song to cut their way in, like Jack Nicholson chopping through the door in The Shining. Tempo shifts into a more upbeat rhythm while the guitars sound even more foreboding and even incorporate elements of shoegaze. A track that truly stands out and wraps the album in a black cloak to prepare for the coming winter.

In summary, while Passages leans more towards the trip-side, it certainly displays enough aggression and distortion to earn the full title of “trip rock.” These songs are approachable and radio-friendly while still achieving a sonic edge, and should appeal to fans of Nine Inch Nails, Spineshank, and the Deftones. I particularly enjoyed the noisier elements of the album, with an unhinged bass tone that provides a layer of grime, and the relentless pummel of the drums that contrast with Heyer’s chameleonic voice. This is a great debut, and fans of industrial rock and goth music should check out Anodine and support this completely DIY release.

Check out the band’s website for ordering information, and get Passages on iTunes or from Amazon:  http://www.anodine.de/releases-2.php

And go follow Anodine on Facebook for live videos and updates:  https://www.facebook.com/anodinemusic

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