Ænigmatum “Deconsecrate” Death Metal Through Sublime Strangeness (Early Album Stream + Interview)
Deeply personal, genre-defying releases that completely disregard any and all trends are a big favorite of mine, as I’ve talked about here and there during my time with Invisible Oranges. Who are better at weaving strange and surprising influences than Portland’s Ænigmatum? I’ll tell you who—damn near nobody. Their new album Deconsecrate drops in just a few days on 20 Buck Spin and has been drumming up some well deserved hype via the early singles; technical without being soulless, melodic without being saccharine, and at nearly all times incredibly fast and aggressive, the album is a true wonder of what talented and inspired musicians can do even playing in a genre that’s been well established for some 30-odd years.
Though the band themselves avoid references as much as possible to their sheer instrumental mastery, it’s really a lot of why this album is so impressive. It’s hard to write stuff that’s complex without it coming across wrong, or feeling weak, but Ænigmatum tie together weird and difficult riffs alongside wicked bass and some of the fastest drums in the genre to give something that, despite evoking a few specific names (The Chasm, Alf-era At The Gates, Cynic) has something that is undeniably their own sound. The gorgeous and bizarre cover art says it best: this is not an album for the faint of heart, but it is goddamn good if you’re willing to give it a chance.
We are proud to have the exclusive worldwide premiere of this album streaming below; listen to it and read an interview with guitarist and vocalist Kelly McLaughlin with the music turned up loud.
The new album is on 20 Buck Spin, a significant size increase from the labels that coordinated the release of Ænigmatum. Was it intimidating at all knowing that Deconsecrate would reach a big audience when you were finishing it up?
No I wouldn't say it was intimidating at all getting involved with 20BS. Dave has been nothing but rad towards us and enthusiastic about the tracks, which made me confident that the album was in good hands. As far as the prospect of reaching a bigger audience goes, it definitely inspires me when I stop to think about it. The idea that your music can maybe wind up in the hands of someone you don't know, near or far, and they can experience what you've created is pretty dang awesome [laughs]. But I don't think that influenced the process at all for me at least. I was just hell-bent on making this record the best it can be for its own sake, regardless of who might hear or appreciate it.
Do you hope to influence other people to reach towards similar paths when you stop to think about your music reaching people around the world?
It's a hope of mine that those who do resonate with our music might feel more emboldened to follow whichever path they deem fit. Don't want to come off as some sort of new age preacher but I do know that all music has the power to change one's perception, be it subtle or profound. I also believe there's a well of power within us that's largely untapped and beyond our understanding, which is a theme I use a lot in our lyrics. So I hope some may feel more inclined to look inwards through our music. But of course if all that totally flies over their heads and they just dig the riffs and the blasts, hey that's perfectly alright too haha.
There’s a heavy underlying element of old technical and melodic death metal bands present; I can hear old At The Gates, The Chasm, and more. When did your interest in those sounds start?
I honestly tend to get a little uneasy with the term technical as it too often gets translated to sheer wankery. I've always admired musicians that can display their mastery of their instruments while still having a certain organic quality to their playing. It started with Chuck for me around 13 hearing Death Live in LA, I was blown away at his proficiency but also his balance, control, and tastefulness. Then yeah, fast-forward to getting into bands like The Chasm and Dissection really solidified in me that you can use the "shreddy" stuff or the overtly melodic, as just different tools in your arsenal of composing, without it being a novelty.
It feels like there’s a bit less of the “shred” in this album compared to the last one, but maybe it’s just that as you master your chosen style it integrates more into the music…
Yeah I think that's pretty accurate and it's really what I aim for in regards to the more involved playing styles. Too easily it can get out of hand and it all becomes too flashy and vapid. It's definitely a huge challenge trying to inject feeling into these parts and to know when to use them most effectively. To be able to weave them into the tapestry of the song so that it conveys maybe a sense of intricate grandeur rather than just oh shit here comes a fuckin face-melter! It's something we're developing more and more as our sound evolves.
When the band started you were involved with or had just left Ascended Dead and Blood Freak, both significantly less melodic and more aggressive bands. Was the goal of Ænigmatum to get away from those on a personal level?
At the time, from what I remember, my goal when we first started Ænigmatum wasn't necessarily to get away from the sounds of other projects I had played in. It was kinda a combination of a couple things. There was an urge to challenge myself more than ever as a guitarist and songwriter in a way that was sincere and emotive. Then there was just the need to express that different side of my musical tastes and to explore a wider array of flavors and themes. And I'd say even though the spirit or vibe of our shit is like you said more melodic, which is very fair, there was still a common thread of intensity that I wanted to maintain, but more grandiose and eccentric.
Is it ever difficult to balance the sometimes sensitive melodies in the songs with the intensity that’s a hallmark of the album?
Oh for sure, I wanted there to be a multitude of different shades and colors and it can be a pain in the ass when something doesn't feel right. That's where our collaboration really shines. There are so many riffs that were co-written, work-shopped and revised that it truly has a bit of all of us in them. So if there was ever a time we felt it needed a certain spice we'd grind it out in the practice space until we were all happy with it.
The basswork on this album feels even more integrated and better executed than on the debut; a particular moment that comes to mind is when the bass becomes the lead instrument that drives the song for a bit in the first half of “Larker, Sanguine Phantom.” Do you write parts like that on bass first, or do they come after the first draft of the song is done on guitar, or something else?
Ah yes, the bass. That is completely out of my hands and is solely the work of one Brian Rush. That dude is a wizard, very seldom does he just plays the riff. And many times his lines don't repeat so not only does he write a new part, he'll write several for one fuckin riff! It adds so much dimension to the songs and is one of my favorite things that we got going for us.