:CD Review: Gothminister – Anima Inferna

Gothminister – Anima Inferna
Release Date: March 25, 2011
Label: Danse Macabre
Website: gothminister.com

Review by: William Dashiell Hammett

Anima InfernaThe name Gothminister is synonymous with dark industrial music. Based in Oslo, Norway, the industrial metal outfit is a labor of love for its founder, Bjørn Alexander Brem. Making a living as a lawyer in Norway, Brem considered letting Gothminister fade away after a trilogy of albums concluded with the 2008 release of Happiness in Darkness. However, luckily for us, he couldn’t stay away from creating music.

The album opens with the song “Stonehenge”, beginning with a heavy guitar introduction with some interesting harmonizing synth lines in the background. The guitars fade briefly allowing Brem’s voice to become the focus before returning to bring accents to his baritone. Known for some downright evil sounding songs, Brem was recently married and there were certain questions raised if his new found domestic happiness would affect his ability to find the darkness reflected in his earlier works. While you can hear some more optimistic lyrics, the vocal tone and inflection continues to transmit the gloominess fans loved with plenty of allusions to undead and lifelessness.

The single, “Liar”, starts with a more electro introduction before the vocals set up the guitars and an expansive synth line. On this song, Brem really lets loose with his vocal, providing some excellent range and harmonization and an interesting vocal doubling effect. The track moves along quickly with a driving beat and no nonsense melody. The following track, “Juggernaut”, returns to a guitar introduction before quieting down briefly when Brem’s vocal track comes in. While starting out with the primary focus on the guitar, the song evolves building and descending into calmness accentuated with some rather striking synth and string lines.

“616” opens with some interesting synth noises before kicking off with a strong guitar and drum track. Brem’s voice holds a note of grittiness not present so far on the album. Additionally, the deep depths of his vocal range shown on previous albums, notable in the song “Angel” from Gothic Electronic Anthems, makes its first appearance on Anima Inferna in this track. A weighty, almost EBM-like, bass synth-line starts off and dominates the song “Solitude”. Other synth sounds join, accenting the odd mood echoed in Brem’s voice before the driving percussion track enters, given weight by a background guitar line. One of the more electronic sounding tracks on the album, it is a nice mixture of organic and synthetic darkness.

“The Beauty of Fanatism” starts off from a completely different direction that those encountered so far on this release with a much higher pitched melody. However, when Brem’s growling voice comes in, it reminds us whom we are listening to and is poetically at odds with the almost innocent melody. When the track picks up, the beat compelling you along with it, the downright aggressive lyrics enter your mind creating the mood one is used to when listening to Gothminister. This, of course, is not kept up, showing a creativity and evolution in composition with transitions and contrasts that are epic in character.

The title track starts with an operatic vocal sample before a heavy, militaristic drum beat and symphonic string samples carry the song forward. Again, Brem’s vocal doesn’t hold back, it is aggressive, fierce and dynamic. The music fits well with the style and brings attention to the words and away from them at just the right moments. The song fades out into the next track, appropriately called “Fade”. It is really just a transition track to the next song, “Beast”, a heavy, evil sounding song that, except for the actual singing and existence of a melody, would make a black/death metal band proud.

The album wraps up with the exit track “Hell Opens The Gate” with barely any noticeable transition from the previous song. Simple synth lines and the absence of any percussion indicate something is different about this track at the very beginning. Vocal samples overlap until a heavily effected and evil sounding vocal track create a segue between the introduction of the song to the denouement.

Also included on the release is a remix of Liar offering quite a different take on the song.

This is an excellent album and, except for the transition track “Fade” and ending track “Hell Opens The Gate” every song has made its way into my daily mix. At just barely forty minutes, the album is a tad on the short side, I personally would have preferred much more. The vocal range on display on this album is truly astounding and the mix between electro/industrial elements and those from metal are truly brilliant. There really are so many good things about this album it is very hard to just name a few.  There is so much going on, so many subtle melodies and sounds it is truly astounding.  Fans of Gothminister’s early albums will hear a musician who has taking their art to a new level. Those just discovering Brem’s music for the first time are in for a real treat.

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