In the minds of the deranged and twisted lies a medley of sickness. Narcissism, paranoia, sadism and rage. In “Somewhere Within the Pines” these dastardly machinations are dissected and autopsied with gratuitous nuance and fastidiousness, telling the story of a demon serial killer who preys upon our most vulnerable members of society – children. Using the cut-throat brutality of death metal and impressively implemented progressive metal motifs, Anomaly produce a deep, dark, twisted and resoundingly imposing concept album that offers unpredictability as much as a gritted teeth enjoyment behind every riff and in every song.
Baiting you into the sonic barrage that is “Somewhere Within the Pines” is “Cursed to Meet Another Sunrise.” Shuffling along with agonizing and grizzly riffage and being completed with guttural vocals tinged with abject despair, the early throws of this album are certainly foreboding and linked well to the thematic, and this becomes even more so with the more nuanced and technical middle section that manages to set a more subtle emotive turn that allows for a period of contemplation before eventually slamming back down into a chuggy morass, that despite continuing on for a fraction too long, develops into a nicely circular period of brutality. If you want to make a concept album, first impressions are more crucial than ever, and the first impression made by “Somewhere Within the Pines” more than adequately frames the general mood and direction of the album.
The next step beyond a well-honed introduction is to then develop upon the context laid out and really immerse the listener into the themes and notions the concept aims to convey. It is then good that the second track of the album “Somewhere Within the Pines” sufficiently conveys the aspects of despair and doom with its higher tempo skull-crushing intensity that meets surprisingly well with the achingly sad melodic segments adjoining them. Immersion is not total by this point of the album, but good ground has been seized in the battle to truly make the listener feel part of the story, it is without reproach that at least a large proportion of the framing has been done by now, but the overall ability to withdraw the listener into another world has not quite been achieved yet.
It is perhaps a good thing then, that even though I do not feel fully immersed within what “Somewhere Within the Pines” deigns do be, that nonetheless I am enjoying it greatly. There’s an air of one of my personal favorite bands – 1914, about them. Of course, I wouldn’t just boil Anomaly down to this, they’re far far too progressive and intricate to be as unwaveringly savage as 1914, but there’s certainly some sonic overlap there. Indeed, the melding of progressive elements here is done in a way where the intensity of the music is un-compromised and so is the underlying groove, and yet these are in fact embellished by the quirkiness that the addition of said elements often generates.
Proceeding deeper into the molasses-thick and doom laden window into the sickening occurrences of the albums thematic locale, “These Cold Weeping Winds” tells of how the resident demon once again victimizes another target, and how the rumors of his existence being merely folklore are but the financial protestations of the privately terrified, whose idle disregard for the demon belies the actual terror he strikes into their trembling hearts. The theme is all pervasive in “These Cold Weeping Winds” and finally becomes fully immerse, I feel as if I am hunting the demon, or wait, is it hunting me? It becomes hard to tell when caught in the anxious torrent being pumped into my ears, every drum beat, every guitar lick, every exasperated bellow from Anomaly’s vocalist Neil Tidquist drives me deeper into the clutched of “Somwehere Within the Pines” and in a sense, I too can no longer hope to escape.
Excavating deeper into the wounded psyche you will have developed via listening thus far is the similar “My Old Bleached Bones.” Could a cautionary tale be more prominent, could it be more impactful? Dashes of piano tingle on the skin as a groovy yet godforsaken riff drags along, wobbling and wavering like the knees of anyone foolhardy enough to seek the demon upon meeting its vile gaze and become another victim of its insatiable perdition. With a brief resolve, a pacifying of sorts, delectably rich baritone vocals ring in, incorporating a glum and forlorn timbre that is so detectable across them in a way most perplexingly obvious and yet so consciously indivisible – no doubt the apoapsis of suspense has passed, and now the unavoidable consequences of a misadventure encounter with our serial killer shall transpire.
At this point in “Somewhere Within the Pines” you’re transfixed, it’s as if musical medusa had stared into your eyes and you are but another stone statue in the barrier reef deep ocean of the thematic intensity delivered thus far. To capitalize on the groundwork of the first two songs was the aim of the ones following and I cannot say that in any way Anomaly have failed to do so. I love to be immersed in a concept album like this, I will make no secret of my adoration for the grand designs of much more popular bands such as Pink Floyd and Marillion who so wonderfully set out in the history-seeped aspiration to tell stories that speak to the core of who we are, be they satirical, homely, biting or resigned, speak they of our ability to love immensely and complexly or the human folly to fall vice to the various tipples and substances who surround us even in the face of greater concerns. In “Somewhere Within the Pines” a horror most entrenched in the core of many people is espoused. To lose a child, to have the weak harmed, to have done unto the only uncorrupted sign of purity in a world thick with dirt and bastadry an injustice. To overlook the theme as a trite reflection of too on-the-nose B rate horror flicks is to not appreciate the gulf in the severity of the representation of such a topic between such a medium and what is laid out in this record. All the noise, all the shifts and changes within the music, it all means so much more when you feel the desperation in the songs, when you pay an active mind to what is actually going on here, and how each individual instrument and passage is touching upon the various emotions that the subjects of the songs may well feel in such a scenario.
It is then perhaps a shame that track number 5 is so jarringly different to what came before hand. “Don’t Go Out Into the Woods Alone” is arguably a cover of an American folk song, with a name I frankly do not remember but a sound and lyrical direction I am most familiar with. I understand why Anomaly wanted to mix things up a bit, and in isolation, this is a perfectly accomplished and fun rendition of a classic song many will know from their younger years, but in all honesty, for me, it just doesn’t make sense being where it is in the album. It is totally immersion breaking and that’s so bitterly disappointing after I was so invested in what was happening within the narrative. A song like this needs to be at the end of an album, a little song into the end, or perhaps a post-scriptum of sorts. Now it has left the last two songs with so much work to do.
No doubt as jarringly as track number 5 arrived, it disappears with the following entry onto “Somewhere Within the Pines,” “Sentenced to the Trees.” Images of desolate forests thick with wispy mists and bracing cold are conjured by the dissonant and bleak guitar wizardry and are only shaped into the perceptible forms of ancient oaks by the driven percussion that sits in an equilibrium within the mix with the rest of the instruments. The so-often mentioned within this review immersion begins to return, but perhaps not to the dizzying height it once did. A mention must be made to the production here on the ultra-melodic acoustic guitar led mid-section which sounds absolutely gorgeous, warm and yet still soberingly dry. In fact, as a song just by itself, “Sentenced to the Trees” is probably the highest point of the album, being genuinely beautiful at parts despite the altogether harsh nature of the track.
Sometimes, albums become victims of their own success, both outside of themselves and within themselves and for the latter, “Somewhere Within the Pines” stands as an example. When you’ve tasted the brilliance of the first four tracks and you feel as if you are in the concept the album is espousing, it is so bitterly disappointing that despite what is a great song in “Sentenced to the Trees” the mistake that was “Don’t Go Out Into the Woods Alone” has done so much damage to the flow and continuity of the album that it’s really hard to settle back into the way I felt before I came across it. It’s hard not to feel harsh when criticizing it, and no doubt some listeners are going to love the juxtaposition of “Don’t Go Out Into the Woods Alone” but I have to be honest when I say it felt amateurish and endemic of a decision that was made because it could be, not because it should be.
Of course, this means a lot rests on the 7th and final song of “Somewhere Within the Pines.” It is entirely up to “One Last Glimpse of the Sun” to restore the vibe that existed prior to my recent complains, and with a funeral doom style opening it is certainly true that the darkness of previous songs returns with a vengeance. Adjoining to such passages is a mournful ambient segment that eventually coalesces to be a more typical of the album death metal track. Despite the greatness of the song on an individual basis, it does not return me to the level of engrossment that I previously reached, even if it does come painstakingly close.
All in all, individually, nearly every song on “Somewhere Within These Pines” has its own moments of greatness, is entertaining and most of all is compellingly good at telling a story. It is a shame that a terribly placed stylistic shift ruins the albums’ chance at achieving the highest of scores and instead relegates it to relatively quiet praise and respect. I hope to see more from Anomaly in the future, and sincerely wish the band nothing but the best in their quest to tell stories via their technically accomplished and oft fascinating music.
Released By: Self-Released
Release Date: November 25th, 2022
Genre(s): Progressive Death Metal
- Neil Tidquist / Guitars, Vocals
- Mary Beers / Keyboards
- John Ibarra / Guitar
- Daniel Stachowiak / Bass
“Somewhere Within the Pines” track listing:
- Cursed to Meet Another Sunrise
- Somewhere Within the Pines
- These Cold Weeping Hands
- My Old Bleached Bones
- Don’t Go Out Into the Woods Alone
- Sentenced to the Trees
- One Last Glimpse at the Sun
Order “Somewhere Within the Pines” here.
So close and yet so far for Anomaly’s second release, great ideas are marred by poor album flow that disrupts what is otherwise an excellently judged and orchestrated concept album with a unique theme