Earlier this year, Dawn of Ashes frontman Kristof Bathory paid a visit to FEARnet, where he talked about the coming release of the band's long-awaited full length studio album Anathema. The interim EPs Farewell to the Flesh and Hollywood Made in Gehenna involved a new creative hybridization for the band, hinting that the new record would represent more of the powerful fusion of their electro-industrial beginnings (the track “Torture Device,” which originated on their 2007 album The Crypt Injection, makes an encore here in a new form) and the blackened horror-metal of their 2010 release Genocide Chapters. I'm happy to report that Anathema is much more than the sum of those elements... and by more, I mean more shocking, more perverse, more aggressive, more evil. Plus it's structured like a loose concept album, providing a grander thematic playground for the band's splattery cinematic tendencies. Adding further spice to the stew is the guest appearance of Psyclon Nine frontman Nero Bellum; P9 turned out one of 2009's most terrifying records (We the Fallen), and Nero brings the same game to his vocals in "Poisoning the Steps of Babel,” one of the strongest (and scariest) cuts.
The album's title track, which plays out in three parts, serves as a three-act framework, beginning with the intro “Scorned Upon,” the middle section “Burned at the Stake” and the coda “Primordial Abomination.” Old-school industrial noise (think Throbbing Gristle, Coil or Einstürzende Neubaten) blends with grimy loops and orchestral/choral samples in these tracks, with incantations from Kristof lending a black mass ceremonial vibe and a very high creep factor; the closing piece, with its lurching percussion and ominous brass, is full-on horror soundtrack material. The lyric tracks tap into the same pattern and mood, but ramp up the intensity: buzzing synth bass and drum crashes are the dark pulse of "A Breathing Holocaust,” and the mid-tempo industrial dirge "Insidious (Of the Judas Breed)" is juiced with chugging riffs in the mode of early KMFDM, but with a black metal sensibility. "Sex, Blood, & Black Magic" infuses the low bass and thudding beats with dissonant synth wails and lecherous multi-tracked vocals, resulting in a sonic blend of sleaze and menace.
"Ending a Harrowing Wish" puts more emphasis on harsh mid-range synth & guitar chords that come together like well-tuned power saws, counterbalanced with moody, gothic choruses. The metronome ticking of "Morphine Addiction" gives way to a cleaner, more open beat pattern and tense vocals strongly reminiscent of Skinny Puppy, but with a sweet metal guitar break that kicks off the dark, creepy-crawling second half. "Torture Device (The Final Formula for Torment)" reworks an earlier DOA track with more intensity, beefed up with some solid guitar riffs, while the rhythm driving "Systematic Guillotine" is reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails' “Reptile,” with a similar production style. Gary Zon of electro-industrial unit Dismantled lends his more melodic voice to the track "Scars on Scars," layered with Kristof's rasping vocals to create a demonic buzz.
If you like your horror music served straight, without a wink and a smile to disarm the true terror, Anathema will satisfy your appetites. It's definitely this band's most focused and intense work in their dozen-year career, taking only the strongest elements from their history of aggro-tech, industrial and horror metal and synthesizing them into a potent – even lethal – sonic cocktail.
You can find out how horror movies, Lovecraft tales, witch-burnings and other sinister themes impacted the making of Anathema in our exclusive interview with Kristof Bathory... be sure to check it out below!