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I don't like everything Black Anvil does, but I always want to hear what they're up to next. Their misses (Triumvirate) are interesting and their hits, well... the incredible Hail Death was one of my favorite albums of 2014. Work like that generates the creative goodwill that encourages people to follow the New York outfit into strange territory.

And their new record, As Was is very strange. A far cry from the blackened metallic hardcore of their first LP, the record dabbles in most modern black metal trends, transitioning from one idea to another in rapid succession, sometimes within the same song. At times it's some of their most aggressive material, but often it's their most melodic, employing more of the clean vocals that peppered Hail Death. The title track, for example, plays loosely with melodic post-rock timbres in its penultimate section, but never feels forced.

The last song on the record, "Ultra", also shows off Black Anvil's new balance of aggression and melody. A muscular and driving opening section hides a catchy guitar lick that becomes a repeated motif, one that shows up as a vocal round later. These kinds of nuanced compositions make up every song on As Was.

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As Was is out 1/13 via Relapse Records. Follow Black Anvil on Facebook.

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