If you haven’t heard from Anuryzm yet you’ve been living under a rock. In August of this year the first buzz of a new metal formation hitting the local scene emerged and in the weeks after the band has effectively campaigned across various social media channels to generate awareness and get people talking.
In late September “Breaking the Ballot” was released as a teaser track and it got nothing but fantastic feedback. In early October the full debut album “Worm’s Eye View” was officially released electronically and available for just US$9 at the Anuryzm web store on ReverbNation. The band is scheduled to make its stage debut in late October and then a physical copy of the album will also be available.
Anuryzm is the brain child of singer Nadeem Bibby and guitarist John Bakhos, who had been challenging each other musically since 1997 on a quest to constantly push their similar taste in heavier musical genres to the next level. This led to what can be considered the first incarnation of the band in 2003, but circumstance, setbacks and travel prevented them from giving it the nourishment it required to really plant the flag. When John eventually returned to the UAE he and Nadeem got together and laid down what had then become almost a decade of ideas and song structures onto a demo.
Once master drummer Martin Lopez (nine years of Opeth and one of the most influential musicians in the late 90’s prog scene) got involved as a session drummer the foundation for what is now Anuryzm was finally and durably established. To top things off Uri Dijk (Textures) volunteered to make a guest contribution on synth for “Breaking the Ballot”. Having such guest/session musicians on a debut album is nothing less than a statement that the bar is set high from the get go and that Anuryzm is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
The studio line up for the recording of the debut album “Worm’s Eye View” consisted of Rami Lakkis (independent musician, http://www.myspace.com/ramilakkis) on bass, John on synths and guitars, and Nadeem on vocals. Drums were recorded by Martin Lopez in Sweden and everything else was recorded in the U.A.E. Vocals were engineered by Hani “Jabbar” Al Khatib, acoustic guitars were engineered by Serge Lutfi, and everything was mixed and mastered by Miltiadis Kyvernitis at MNK Studios.
In order to complete the live lineup, local barbeque hero and prog fanatic Imad Dahleh on drums, college friend Jay Jahed on the synths and local studio guru Miltiadis Kyvernitis on rhythm guitar were found to be the perfect match to join the ranks so they could get the show on the road not long after the cd release (See below for gig dates)
Alrighty then, that sounds promising! So let’s take look at the material. Since the actual CD is not yet available this review is based on the electronic release. Acquiring the album gets you all 8 songs in 320 kb/s bitrate MP3 format totaling a playing time of 52 minutes, which is quite generous. Finally there’s a JPEG image of the album cover, which is a beautiful piece of work and seems to be telling a story, but I’ll get back to that later.
The album starts with Fragmenting the Soul. The soundscapes that cover the first half a minute are tasteful and well-chosen to set the mood for the album’s modern sound. When the instruments fade in a couple of things become immediately clear.
First off, the production is impeccable and has a certain airiness to it that is both pleasant to the ear and leaves plenty of room for all the instruments to breathe and shine. Secondly, these guys know the composition side of songwriting. The structure is clear and refined and the theme of the song remains intact due to sophisticated transitions between parts, which takes more than just skill: you simply can’t pull something like that off if thinking is not aligned between musicians.
Thirdly, we appear to have like four singers in this band. Further inquiry reveals however that the vocals have all been done by the same person, illustrating some serious chameleonesque qualities. The clean vocals remind me a bit of early Paul Gilbert’s clean rawness, the pre chorus parts have a bit of a Paul di Anno pitch control flavor to it and the grunts would easily envy many a death metal front man. This song shows good style variety and sets the stage for what’s to come on the album: therefore a good opener.
Wide Awake has a different feel to it. Had the first track been a powerful progressive heavy rock/metal type sound, this is an uplifting song with a catchy chorus that should be good sing along material when on stage. The playful interaction between synths & guitars creating a dreamy, almost melancholy atmosphere is the main attention point here.
Track number three is by far the most progressive track on the album and being familiar with Lopez’ work I wouldn’t be surprised if he has been the main architect here. Sintax of Trinity pulls you in every direction style wise and while none of the songs patterns are being repeated anywhere, seamless transitions between the parts interestingly make it a very smooth ride. Pay special attention to the bass guitar in this track, tastefully and skillfully taking the hard and painful road instead of just being a supporting instrument.
Skygazing starts off with a clean, almost ballady couple of verses before exploding into a very big, epic sounding series of passages that would knock people off their feet in a live situation. After the main course we get treated to an impeccable top of the Matterhorn solo sound that creatively rebuilds up to more epicness. Anuryzm likes to pull a different sort of rabbit out of the hat in every song, and in this one it is showing off dynamic control (beautifully performed and recorded acoustic guitars) along with some interesting minor/major interplay.
The title track of the album kicks off with a sample and builds up into one of the grooviest tracks on the album. Both the melodic and the rhythmic patterns could be described as Jane’s Addiction on speed and the vocal lines amplify that. I’m sure this song is going to be a blast when performed live on stage!
There is a lot going on in Killing Time and you really have to give it a few spins to unravel it all. It’s probably the most diverse song in terms of styles that have been incorporated, getting right to business with some blasts and then alternating tight funky verses with typical 90’s heavy rock open chorded sing along chorus material. The interlude is based on scales we often hear in the jazz/fusion genre and the subtle Hammond like organ is the icing on the cake here. Again it’s amazing how the theming is being upheld across the different styles.
Breaking the Ballot from start to end sounds like it came straight out of Akerfeldts head in the Blackwater Park era. In fact, this is what Opeth potentially could and arguably should have released this year. As mentioned, this track had been released as the pre-launch teaser and again it’s a well-chosen one. It is one of the tightest tracks on the album in terms of execution and the up-tempo rhythm along with the heavy riffing (which must have been a bitch to double track) make for a catchy and punchy track that will be a hit on stage, its chorus getting neatly stuck in your head for hours to come.
Where Mockery Falls is the last and longest track on the album, just short of 12 minutes. It is basically a triptych, i.e. it tells a story in three chapters and Anuryzm takes the time to tell it. Turning up the volume really loud on this one reminds once more of the production quality and makes you want to sit down and listen, while reading along with the lyrics that unfortunately aren’t available in the digipack. Without wanting to speculate too much I’d like to think that this song is more or less the soundtrack to the album cover depicting a senior figure of some business or political authority having selfishly secured only himself and his finances in the effort to distantly and carelessly observe the controlled demolition of the establishment. Along with the paper trail, for that matter. Plenty of references to actual events there, but feel free to let your own imagination go wild on that.
All in all this is a fantastic debut. A lot of bands in the progressive genre either go commercial to an extent that it’s hardly progressive anymore, others forget that a song should actually sound good and be dissectible without a pocket calculator and a master degree in quantum mathematics. Anuryzm proves itself to be in full control of balancing musical prowess and songwriting, forging it all into a listening experience that should appeal to a large crowd.
52 minutes of high quality music for only 9 bucks is a steal. Even if the album sucked balls you would of course still buy it to support your local scene, but here you get some serious value. I do feel that the digipack could have had a few extras. It’s relatively low effort and budget to include the lyrics (sing alongs), a bio or promo pack with some pictures and maybe some studio footage which really helps an audience get to know the band a little. The album cover looks awesome and I would have immediately dropped that on my desktop in 1900×1080 had it been available.
Closing off I’d like to mention that this record sounds extremely polished and I can assure that it took many a nocturnal hour to engineer it all together, kudos. In my experience that makes it all the more worthwhile to go out and check them out live on stage, where the polish usually makes room for raw energy. See you in the crowd some time!
Score: 90 / 100
Enter Nadeem Bibby for a quick Q&A:
Q: How did master Lopez get involved? Since he’s not in it in the long run, has this been a one off project for him?
A: Martin genuinely loved the demos he heard online, and was interested and happy to provide drum work for the album. There was no politics or bs involved, just a very talented musician helping out some buddies, we are good friends with him and the Soen guys, especially Steve Di Giorgio. We think it is a one-off project with Martin, because we are blessed to have Imad Dahleh as our full time drummer as well as the fact that Martin obviously lives in Sweden and has his own projects going on.
Q: How long did the entire writing / recording process take?
A: Well some of the ideas have been bouncing around in mine and John’s heads for many years now, but the efforts to make everything significant to the time and modern day atmosphere, as well as bouncing around new ideas, took roughly a year and a bit, with actual recording taking about 6 months due to work constraints and the lack of finances.
Q: Are all the lead vocals done by the same vocalist?
A: Yes, it was definitely a challenge for me to have the versatility and duality but I had the Unholy Trinity of John, Miltiadis and Jabbar breathing down my neck to really push myself, I’m very happy with the way it all turned out. Miltiadis also provided some backing growls on the album.
Q: What bands/projects have Anuryzm’s musicians been involved in before?
A: Several, however none worth mentioning other than Ordum (John’s extreme metal side project based in Lebanon) and Rami Lakkis’s solo project, in addition to having played bass for both Abri and Abhorred. Jay used to play in a progressive metal band called Dilemma. Also Miltiadis has worked as a producer for many artists in the U.A.E. and abroad, and is one of the driving forces behind Private Government.
Q: What would you consider the main influences of the band?
A: It’s a bit hard to answer this question on behalf of the whole band but I can say that John and I truly believe in old school metal and rock, in addition to a lot of progressive music. We’re not really into the metal sound of the last decade or so and we don’t necessarily limit ourselves to just those genres, we’re very open when it comes to music, especially when it sounds good!
Q: Anything else you’d like to add. Future plans, ambitions, new material, upcoming gigs, record labels, whatever.
A: Well, we are looking forward to playing some shows both here and abroad and to keep enjoying making new music, we are just happy that people can relate to our music just for what it is. We don’t have any underlying messages or meanings and everything is open to interpretation in the tradition of progressive music.
As far as new material is concerned, we have to honor our commitment to Worm’s Eye View, but we have a significant amount of new material that’s in pre-production for our next album, and we should be entering the studio sometime in 2012. Yes, we work fast!
We just want to thank you for this interview, and thank the readers for reading, and we hope that you all can come and see us on the upcoming dates: