There was a time I remember when I had a higher opinion of Anata, at least as technically nimble metal goes. But the much acclaimed Under A Stone With No Inscription, after an almost decade-long gap between listens, now presents a classic example of the technical death metal motific clusterfuck A motif (see Cruciamentum review for similar discussion) is an idea around which a piece of art is based, of especial importance in music, because a common idea is the only way the attentive listener can hope to stay within seeing distance of a composition. The repeating motif does not have to be entirely blatant; talented bands, in the spirit of true musical progression, introduce subtle variations on the initial premise, but insist on keeping a readily communicable channel open with the listener. There is a time and a place for artistic flourishes; the relationship, after all, is that of an entertainer and his audience. But flourishes should never slip into a gratuitous recklessness.
Under A Stone With No Inscription, today, plays out like a randomly cobbled together collection of unrelated riffsets. There is no stamp of identity to any of these songs and it is revealing of an unfortunate approach to songwriting obsessed with patterns above songs. Anyone that has tinkered around with writing music can identify with the syndrome where one happens upon a cool pattern, then another, and so on, over a matter of weeks. Interspersed in between may be detours and pit stops for a variety of reasons. By the time this disjointed process comes to a conclusion and the parts written are assembled into something resembling a song, the original impetus and even the very reasoning behind writing the song is lost. In such a situation, how can the result boast of any kind of continuity?
I’m not suggesting that Anata do things this way; they are far too accomplished as musicians to subscribe to this simplistic reading. But the music on Under A Stone With No Inscription supports some variant of this theory. There are individual strokes of a pleasant, harmonic nature but these feel more like knick-knacks than integral parts of a greater songwriting. For vast stretches, this remains a pattern generator album of sorts, and I doubt one would suspect anything amiss if a random pattern was extracted and replaced elsewhere.
Deeds Of Flesh, however, are an entirely different creature compared to Anata. Their technicality is one of endurance; few pose serious challenge to their simple strength as death metal musicians. Great dexterity at non-stop tremolo-picking across multiple strings is combined with a very real knowledge of how to progress death metal motifs and songs. Their approach is every bit as note-intensive as Anata‘s, albeit far more partial to the low end; unlike Anata, however, these notes have specific roles assigned to them and they occupy specific niches, always to push the song forward. Path Of The Weakening is not an album of moments but rather of a concrete, homogeneous mood. Despite the immensely physical playing, there are no jarring points on it; rather, underlying its dark and brutal aesthetic is a strange, dream-like serenity found only in the best death metal.