This is a retrospective look at a release which though it has only just ventured before our gaze it was released almost a year ago. Thank sin it has stepped into view though as Anima Asylum is one delicious and incredible triumph of creative insanity and emotive mastery. The album comes from Mel-P; a French band that creates schizophrenic progressive metal which is staggeringly powerful and borne from an inventive and majestic imagination which with its pure uniqueness ignites nothing less than passion in heart and mind. The release is just incredible, ten tracks of visionary invention which are aurally painted before the ear to incite the fullest emotive and visual experience possible.
From Le Mans, the band is a quartet of musicians who from their shadowed persona musically walk and investigate the darkest emotions and states of mind as evident on the album. There is little to be sourced about them but they are a band who formed in 2004 and take influences from the likes of Deftones, Watcha, Rage Against The Machine, Flying Pooh, Mr Bungle, Machine Head, Psykup, Fantomas, Threat Signal, Gojira and many more, and one suggests also have a healthy admiration for Parisians 6:33 too. Anima Asylum follows debut EP Nouvelles de la Jungle of 2007, and musically it and the band fuse the most compelling essences of progressive metal, experimental dub and electro, and washes of evocative ambiences into explosive canvases of beautifully crafted instrumental arrangements and derangements. The tracks wrap themselves around the senses tightly and magnetically, their passages fluid and organic yet sculpted with an understanding and craft which only enhances the delirium of free and imaginative creativity at untethered play.
The album starts with Anima I the first of three brief and disturbing ambient intrusions throughout the release. The opening one is a whisper of sonic corruption from menacing shadows with a chilling caress. It leads into Nyourk Reliquus, a mesmeric track with a loping gait driven by a smouldering weave of ska rhythms and a seductive melodic jazz like narrative. Here as for all the tracks each listener will explore and discover their own imagery from the unpredictable and disturbed sounds but feel and see they will. The piece is the first gentle touch of a shadow borne bedlam, its presence becoming animated in intensity the further into its mania it dives. The metal riffs and energy crowds the ear magnificently whilst the melodic manipulations spark fires within the brewing tempest which ends on a furnace of a climax. It is stunning and alone makes band and release something impossible to move away from.
It is not alone though as the likes of Otium and Sollicitudo unravel their psyche splendour and innovation to equal heights. The first takes one into a solitary confinement of thoughts, its initial defiant riled energy evolving into a calm yet blistered grace soaked in irresistible guitar enterprise before exploding into a contagious squall of confusion brought through scarring sonics and intimidating rhythms. Sollicitudo unleashes its own neurosis and nightmares in sensational style too. Again the band fuses light and dark into a provocative tapestry of emotive and musical grandeur beneath an imposing confining shadow which never lets a moment rest or lie without a challenge from a psychotic breath.
The intensive Cheewed Arbor emerges next to cast the heaviest presence of the album, an intrusive encounter the likes of Meshuggah would be proud of. The song again is just outstanding and another instigator of thoughtful reflection and imagery with a haunting mania to its fearsome presence.
The album continues to thrill and stretch the listener through the ‘off worldly’ Persequor, a track which is a mouthwatering venture into a realm seemingly offering an escape complete with an irresistible welcome brought through an infectious Specials like ska haunt, and Intermuralis with its persuasive Middle Eastern lures within a barren landscape, though the track is not empty in impressive sounds and invention.
Ending on Letabilis, a track which encapsulates every one of the immense attributes of the band in composition and its remarkable realisation, Anima Asylum is one of the most compelling and imaginatively ingenious releases in a long time. It may be a year old but it and Mel-P deserve as much attention as is possible, simply insanity at its creative best.
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