Entering the Underground #26: Animalize’s Carnivorous Heavy Metal
Though France is perhaps not known these days for their heavy metal scene so much as for their glorious and popular extreme metal one, there’s a deep history of the stuff in that country. Heavy metal maniacs live for classics like ADX and Sortilège, and cult reunion events for those bands at festivals draw thousands of excited fans. Fast forward to 2018: a new challenger approaches. Enter Animalize.
Inspired by old video games, film, and the finest traditions of their chosen genre, Animalize debuted with their striking debut album Meat We’re Made Of back in June and it’s been dazzling me ever since. The songwriting is extremely catchy, the aesthetic sense very 1980s in the best of ways (Synth interlude that could fit in Blade Runner’s score? Check. Song about a Stephen King story? Check. Sci-fi anti-cop song? Check.), and sleaze permeates despites the fact that the songs are not nearly so raunchy as their obvious influences from old glam bands.
The vocals are high pitched, energetic, and significantly more accomplished than is common in a modern scene that has, frankly, largely seen a large fall-off in musicianship; all around, that musicianship is somewhat understated but always present, giving it a nice professional air that is often missing in modern heavy metal. That's not to say it’s commercial, but merely that the band members sound like they actually know what they’re doing enough to write something catchy and simple on purpose rather than because it’s all they’re capable of. A sharp sort of riffing I associate more with the NWOBHM than with anything else is a huge characteristic of their music (see: Tygers of Pan Tang or Tokyo Blade) and especially predominates in sections significantly faster than most of the bands that the Dying Victims Productions promo text would lead fans to believe exists on the album.
When that sharp riffing isn’t at the forefront, a very French sense of melancholy melodicism ties together songs regardless of tempo, and a great amount of variety keeps any section of the album from feeling stagnant. Something outside of musicianship that is often missed by modern heavy metal bands worshiping at the altar of the 1980s is that variety abounded on classic albums, and Animalize clearly take that to heart. Dio had “Stand Up and Shout” on the same album as "Don’t Talk to Strangers," Overkill tossed in heavy metal songs and doom metal ones on thrash albums, and Candlemass wasn’t afraid to stop playing in their signature epic doom brand- so why should Animalize just stick to one thing? As much as I keep pointing back at the 1980s for aspects of Animalize’s form, their energy, passion, and skill prevent it from feeling old or dated. They clearly love the bands that formed this great genre and the time period that those bands formed in, but they’re fresh, ripping, and inspiringly varied and original. This is a genuinely badass record and everyone should give it a shot. They did well to write it and Dying Victims did well to release it.
Go check out Meat We’re Made Of and read an interview below with Niels Bang, the band’s singer, bassist, and main songwriter.
Your aesthetic choices for the cover of Meat We're Made Of are awesome and unusual. Where did you get the idea? Was the entire band initially on board for the concept for the art?
The cover idea came to my mind in 2018, even before we released our debut EP Tapes From The Crypt . I was already thinking about using this idea to release a single for a track that features on the EP Meatnight Race. It's only later that I realized that idea came from a PS1 game that I used to play when I was a kid. "Duke Nukem: Time to Kill". One of the game over ending screens shows the "Pig Cops" serving Duke Nukem's head on a plate. I guess I was shocked by it when I was a child, haha.
The entire band is always aware about the different ideas. But sometimes it's better to show something concrete so that everyone agrees.
Are video games a big influence on your aesthetic in general past Duke Nukem? Is media a good source of inspiration?
I'd say more that a lot of my visual inspiration comes from my childhood. Movies, video games, posters... When you're a kid you're most easily shocked and/or amazed by what you see.
I'm sure not what you might call a "gamer". But I've got to admit that some of old school video games have a real influence on me.
The tracks on the new album are in a mixture of French and English. Why do songs in both?
French and English are both bringing different vibes.To me, French is perfect to express dark and melancholy lyrics, as it's my mother tongue. And English sounds better than French for that "funny" party vibe. Like " The Witch You Are".
Nothing is impossible, maybe we could have done all songs in French, or all songs in English.
But that's what I felt when I wrote them.
Is having a balance of funny and weird to melancholy and dark important when putting together a track listing?
I don't know if it's important but it seems to be a good mix when the listener discovers the album for the first time. It keeps him surprised so he doesn't get bored.
Animalize covers a lot of ground lyrically; is anything off limits in terms of what you’d want to sing about?
The only thing I don't want to do is write explicit lyrics. I don't like when I hear someone that tells me how I am supposed to think. Or even when someone simply sings straight facts. No matter if it's about love, politics, parties, mythology... I love when lyrics have double reading, when it's subtle with a hidden message.
Does it take more time to write lyrics that are a little more twisty in the way you describe than if you did something else? Are lyrics ever difficult for you creatively?
Lyrics are getting more easily to write, now. In the very beginning it was pure pain. It's very hard when the subject is still not concrete or when you're shy about your own feelings. But now I really know what I want to say.
You self-released the vinyl version of your first EP but stuck with Dying Victims for the album; why did you decide to tackle vinyl without label backing for Tapes from the Crypt in the first place? What made you switch over to using a record label for the LP?
Honestly, we didn't believe our EP could interest some labels. We didn't want to wait for never coming answers. So we decided to self release our vinyl issue. It was risky, but faster. We were lucky that so many people shared it and talked about us ! Then Dying Victims contacted us and offered a good co-production contract. Now we're glad to work with them because our music is hitting so much more people than before.
Meat We're Made Of released June 30th via Dying Victims Productions.