Someone who has two fingers on the pulse of the United States Black Metal scene can recognize that Black Metal's foundational elements have been stretched to its outermost limits throughout, roughly, the last decade. Atmospheric experimentation has found its way into Black Metal and has dawned a new wave of music that takes the raw elements of Bathory or Mayhem and infuses it with lush soundscapes that pay homage to homelands or non-metal genres like Shoegaze. This has proven to produce amazing results, see Wolves in the Throne Room's Diadem of 12 Stars, Yellow Eyes's Sick With Bloom or Deafheaven's Sunbather to name a few. New York's Anicon, on the other hand, takes a different approach to Black Metal, instead choosing to sacrifice atmospheric soundscapes for technical prestige and fervent rage.
Anicon was founded by Owen Rundquist (also of Trenchgrinder) and Nolan Voss in 2010 and quickly grew into a full project once Alex DeMaria (live bassist of Yellow Eyes) and drumming wizard, Lev Weinstein (Krallice, Geryon, etc.) were added. On the group's debut full-length album, Exegeses, Anicon shines in icy radiance as each of its seven songs exemplify clinical execution of a battle-tested Black Metal sound. Take the opening track, "Toil and Mockery", which stages the album with blistering tremolo guitars, frenetic blast beats, and segments written in rounds. It is a fiercely catchy track and much like the bookending track, "In Shadow and Amber", they capture much of a Second Wave of Black Metal impression à la early Darkthrone (minus the lo-fi recording manner). Songs like "Mazzaroth" certainly draw a Krallice comparison. As mentioned earlier, Anicon features their drummer, also Exegeses was recorded, mixed, and mastered in Colin Marston's Menegroth studio in Queens. However, the album never loses its overall Nordic qualities due largely in part to Rundquist's Nocturno Culto-esque hiss against the bellows of Voss as well as the dueling melodies that the two create with their guitars in songs like "Robed In Torments" and "From Teeth, From Tongue".
The complementation of Rundquist and Voss's skill sets across much of Exegeses is yet another striking feature of the band. The founding duo pairs each other incredibly well, both vocally and instrumentally. The aforementioned guitar melodies are very apparent, but when taking them piece by piece, the true complexities of what these two accomplish is even more revealing. Their riffs intertwine and dissociate at times and chords seem to fuse into an icy avalanche. Alex DeMaria's bass echoes the rush of the guitars (most notably during "In Shadow and Amber"), composing the frozen undertow that buries listeners in thick bass lines. Lev Weinstein's drumming, which history shows that it needs no discussion, brings a frenzied rhythm that bolsters Anicon's arrangements in such a way that this metaphorical avalanche ultimately swallows entire villages at the base of the Black Metal mountain.
Viewing Exegeses holistically, it serves as a conduit for the Black Metal of yesteryear. Anicon's debut full-length channels many of the frigid forces that built up Black Metal to the titanic power it is today. Very rarely does a band make an album, in a style reminiscent of its inaugural days, that makes someone continue to listen to their music instead of wanting to go and revisit old works from defunct bands. Such is the talent of Anicon though. They have seized attention by fusing modern recording techniques and styles with ancient manners. Exegeses also provides a fresh yet familiar approach to United States Black Metal that characterizes the diversity that Black Metal inherently possesses. Anicon delivers a promising full-length debut that builds on their earliest EPs and delivers promise for the future within its seven tracks.