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Album Review: ÆNIMUS Transcend Reality

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There seems to be a non-connective Venn Diagram with two bubbles labeled "technically proficient" and "actually interesting" in the world of technical metal. Fortunately, Ænimus recognize and rectify this disconnect in one fell swoop with their debut album, Transcend Reality.

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After the neoclassical-flavored introductory track "Asherah's Hourglass," there's only a brief silence before vocalist Matt Wills lets out one guttural vocal line and the band get into the heavy swing of things with "The Awakening." One of the first things noticeable about the album just from these two tracks is that the band obviously take the time to think through their interludes and introductions. Songs like "Black Malice Alchemy" and " The Final Delirium" are both followed up with brief instrumentals ("Black Malice Construct" and "Chimerism") that not only offer a brief reprieve from the onslaught, but serve as actual pieces of music that further the overall sound of the album. In short, Ænimus' interludes are just downright better instrumental pieces than some bands full-on songs.

Outside the small percentage of the album that are the interludes, the songs themselves rival some of the best songwriting in the metal world. Ænimus are clearly aware of when to be all-out technical wizards and when to stand a little further back from that fire and let the music groove. A solid example of that duality would be "Descent Into Chaos," where technicality reigns king until dethroned by what can only be described as a riff that would contest the ending to Meshuggah's "New Millenium Cyanide Christ." The song then shifts back into a tasteful speed-fest and slowly fades out into the distance. While a lot of technical metal albums may only have one song that deserving of diverse praise, all of Transcend Reality is that good.

Objectively, Transcend Reality could easily be anyone's album of the year, or at the very least land in their Top 5. Ænimus have achieved on a debut album what other bands have struggled to achieve over the course of a career; an album worth listening to that's instantly identifiable as that band.

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