"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Black Anvil - "Triumvirate" (CD)

Black Anvil - "Triumvirate" CD cover image

"Triumvirate" track listing:

1. What Is Life If Life Not Now!
2. Crippling
3. The Evil Of All Roots
4. Ultimate Reality
5. Angels To Dust
6. We Own You
7. Scalping
8. Eliminate
9. Dead And Left
10. With Transparent Blood

Reviewed by on January 18, 2011

"They are putting together pieces of their own formula in their own way. Well layered and labyrinthine, you can hear Tom G. Warrior's influence all over this disc in the mournful low string bends."

In just three short years, Black Anvil, formed by members of NYHC veterans Kill Your Idols, has managed to set the metal world ablaze with two full length albums of blackened death. The second of those two records, “Triumvirate”, was put out in September of last year by internationally renowned taste maker Relapse records.

The disc begins with “What Is Life If Life Not Now,” an irrepressibly dark piece of blackened death metal with bending black riffs, featuring intelligible mid-range vocals screaming lines many a metal head will instantly identify with, not the least of which is “The truth lies underground.” What follows is an instrumental number, “Crippling,” which seems a bit of a puzzling choice from a continuity standpoint this early in the album. It could serve as a good prelude, but it doesn't really lead into the next song. It's like a confusing scene in an art house flick that kills the momentum before the film has had a chance to build up any. “The Evil of all Roots” is tasked with setting things back in motion. It reminds of Nunslaughter with more technicality and less Satanic camp. It's aesthetically strong, but doesn't really grab the attention, and frankly is a bit boring in places. It does pick up halfway through, though, and redeems itself, but the song still comes off a bit like a black metal poetry reading. It might well be brilliant, but that doesn't make it any less yawn-inducing. Black metal by numbers equals fans heading from the front of the stage to the bar.

“Ultimate Reality” is meant to be plodding, mid-paced destruction, not a quick rampage. This is a war of attrition, an uncompromising statement. It's progressions are somewhat reminiscent of the work of Mayhem's Euronymous on “Freezing Moon.” Suddenly, this album appears to be growing on the listener like toxic mold on the ceiling of a dank, damp mausoleum. “Angels to Dust” showcases Black Anvil's ability to seamlessly and naturally bring together different elements, such as melody and shadowy riffs. This is not a band trying to appeal to different facets of a scene. They are putting together pieces of their own formula in their own way. Well layered and labyrinthine, you can hear Tom G. Warrior's influence all over this disc in the mournful low string bends.

“We Own You” utilizes clean arpeggios under slowly strummed bar chords for a rich, dense sound that sways back and forth between blast and mid pace, flowing naturally between the two, striking a black balance. It's similar to 1349, with overlapping vocals giving the song a militaristic but not a nihilistic feel. “Scalping” is by far the most black metal sounding track of the bunch—straight ahead second generation black metal with jagged, slicing riffs that cut to the core of Black Anvil, exposing what is inside and what it is meant to be. The march-like essence of the track makes the band feel more like a movement—Watain minus the “me so scary” theatrics and hyperbole. This is followed by the album's second instrumental, “Eliminate,” which isn't an instrumental in a technical sense because it does feature some words. This song makes more sense on the track list than “Crippling,” as it does serve as an adequate intro into the next song, “Dead and Left,” which firmly establishes Black Anvil's mission. The band means to cement all the aspects of its sound uncompromisingly within a single album. Each song is focused on a central riff which is expanded upon and bred for a singular purpose and to make one indelible statement.

“With Transparent Blood” ends the album on an unforeseeable speedy note. It's almost speed metal—an intriguing change of pace. Does Black Anvil have mysteries about them that have yet to be exposed? It's a very deft move, and leaves infinite room for speculation for the next album. It keeps the listener guessing. What are they really capable of and what is their true breadth and depth? Only they know and only they will reveal at a time that will be solely of their own choosing.

Highs: "Triumvirate" is compelling from beginning to end, and leaves the door wide open to speculation and anticipation for Black Anvil's next offering.

Lows: There are a few weak moments here and there, but such criticisms only exist because this isn't the members of Black Anvil's first time at the rodeo.

Bottom line: "Triumvirate" serves as an undeniably strong showing for what could become a defining band of the blackened death genre.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)