By Renee Trotier
How important are geographical surroundings to developing a genre’s sound? When it comes to black metal, I would argue that they are pretty important. Just listen to any of the Norwegian black metal bands that helped pioneer the genre in the early 90’s and try to tell me the opposite. You can almost feel the long, frigid Scandinavian winters in their music; the isolation, the closeness to nature. Combine this with a county’s historical struggles against Christianity and a penchant for rebellion and you’ve pretty much defined the genre. Of course, this is a new decade and the dark underbelly of black metal has spread its influence throughout the world, often to those who merely imitate with insincere, copy-cat theatrics.
I might be forgiven then for being initially skeptical of Black Anvil, a band who calls the bright lights and urban sprawl of New York City home. Fortunately for them, their sophomore album Triumvirate makes a case for itself, offering up a truly authentic yet wholly different approach to black metal. The basic principles are there – tremolo picking, sweeping guitars, puked out vocals – but the way it is presented is what makes it different. The typically low-fi, recorded-inside-a-tin-can production value is replaced by a layer of grit and smog, a coldness that comes from polished concrete rather than ice and snow. The short and atmospheric transition track “Cripple” gives rise to this idea, incorporating what sounds like a police siren faintly in the background.
The album does have a tenancy to blur together at times and while there is nothing overly groundbreaking about the song writing on Triumvirate, there are enough shining moments to garner some repeat listens. The final handful of tracks are especially noteworthy with periods of slow groove (“Dead and Left”) giving way to quick bursts of sonic pummeling (“With Transparent Blood”) and a little bit of everything in between (“Scalping”).
In the end, Black Anvil has given us a decent collection of songs with a genuine spin that can only reflect positively on the new wave of black metal in North America. If you’re a fan of the genre already and are looking for something new and exciting, you could do a lot worse than Triumvirate.