Anwynn - Swords & Blood (EP) (2015)

As anyone who's been trapped in the endless abyss that is the internet can tell you, it's easier now than ever to miss something. Pop up ads, download links, faux news sites, all seeking to derail you from your goals and intentions. It's why school projects are late (often blamed on the dog), why the McKenzie file wasn't ready for your big presentation, and why albums get passed over. You get sucked through the wormhole, and by the time you've returned, your mind is elsewhere. It's the only real explanation for why the new EP from Belgian seven piece Anwynn - new being a relative term, as it was released in May - is only now making the sonic rounds through our speakers. Regardless, it isn't when an album strikes you, but how. And with a dynamic mix of death death metal, symphonics, and otherwordly vocals, Swords & Blood has left a dent, seven months in the making.

When all of those styles and influences are found on one album it's usually in an "either/or" capacity; they're either layered together, or kept wholly separate. Anwynn, on the other hand, adds to that formula. It isn't all or nothing, but all, nothing, and in between. Sure, there are passages that could come off of any straight laced death metal album, but those are tempered with a fair amount of keyboard presence. Stripping those layers of aggression away reveals a softer undercarriage, soothingly sweet and profoundly hair raising. And yet, the band are at their best when the divisions are removed and both are allowed to coexist, trading blows of light and dark.It's where the EP feels the most pure, allowing vocalists Eline and McBouc to stand, face to face, calling and answering. Their chemistry is key, but the instrumental versatility of the rest of the band deserves the spotlight. After all, shifting between vocal styles only works in the bigger picture of the music beneath can adapt as well. It doesn't have to be an immediate shift as it is in Shrine, which features several abrupt changes in mood. It can be far more gradual and fluid, as it is on Ghost of Stonehenge. Knowing when to do what is a feat all on it's own.

Music in 2015 and beyond is growing and changing at incredible rates. Much of that has to do with the influx of new talent, of course, and Anwynn is no exception. They're finding a stride on this effort that bodes well for their future. But it isn't just that they're talented musicians; the band is willing to walk the fine line between genre tags, sometimes kicking rocks from one side to the other, in search of a balance they can call their own. And in doing so, they've further blurred some of the perceived war zones between fans. A Nightwish fan can certainly find a lot of things to love on the album, and may find themselves more willing to experiement with death metal. Conversely, someone who fancies the heavy side of things may find the use of symphonics and melodic vocals to be an interesting addition to their repertoire. Swords & Blood might prove to be a gateway to bigger and better things, for the fans and the band. Looking back, we can say that it only took seven months to find the album. But at least we made it.


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