1. Lucky Sky Diamond
2. Form Is Emptiness
3. Tenderness Of Wolves
5. Black Pearl
6. Our Lady Of Assassins
7. Finest Craftsman
8. Like Water In Water
2002 Escape Artist Records
Following its "Quiet Wars" EP, New York's Anodyne returns with its highly anticipated follow-up, "The Outer Dark." "Quiet Wars" was a good effort, but for some reason, it just didn't keep my attention until the last track, "The Extremist." The intensity and anger of that particular song particularly stood out on the EP. Fortunately, "The Outer Dark" picks up where that song left off, and then some.
"Lucky Sky Diamond" sets the tone for the album, with its discordant guitar line leading into some foul sounding chords. Meanwhile, the guitar and bass are accompanied by complex drumming with constant fills that seem to be everywhere. Think math-metal, combined with the dissonance of Deadguy, and the drumming of Shai Hulud (or more specifically, Steve Kleisath). In fact, track one is very reminiscent of Deadguy's "human pig," off of their "Screamin' With The Deadguy Quintet." Although Anodyne shares elements with Deadguy (which is always a good thing, because Deadguy rules), it also incorporates other characteristics. The song eventually breaks into an almost grindcore interlude, as the drums and guitar pick up speed, creating an angry, frantic, and noisy combination, and then reverts back to the dissonant chords and rapid single-note picking that has become a staple for this style of music. "Form Is Emptiness" starts off with a shuffle-like beat with more guitar picking, but as the song develops, each instrument begins to fill out the track with a growing number of complex fills, chords, and rhythms integrated. The drums particularly stand out, giving an offbeat, shifty rhythmic feel.
"Tenderness Of Wolves" shows a different, more-methodical side of Anodyne. Its slower pace, palm-muted riffs, and discordant chords establish an ISIS-like feel. The music then begins to crescendo and gain speed in all departments, hitting its full stride and then quietly settling into feedback and pounding drums. Meanwhile, "Knives" returns to that rocking Deadguy style, with offbeat drumming and guitar work that interchanges between crunchy riffs and sporadic guitar lines. The middle portion of the track settles into a tight guitar groove, with the drummer placing fills and quick beats all over, and then rapid, noisy guitar riffs with spastic drumming to close out the song.
"Black Pearl," considered the album's only instrumental, opens up with random drum work and noise. Meanwhile, the bass is laying down a groove, although it may not sound like it based on the randomness of the other two instruments. This is almost like an improvisational noise track, with some spoken word in the background.
"Our Lady Of Assassins" kicks off with a driving tempo and sound that could be found in some indie-rock song. This track features some quick high-hat work, and stop-and-go music. Before you know it's over, "Finest Craftsman" is all over you with its frantic pace and fast guitar work. Again, the grind in Anodyne makes an appearance, with a lot of drum fills and dissonance used as brief interludes. "Like Water In Water," continues where the last song left off with its quick pace, speedy palm-muted riffing, and feedback. Throughout most of the tracks, Anodyne's vocals range from spoken word to gruff, hate-filled screams. There are even occasional low-end growls thrown in, keeping in line with the grindcore sound in various songs.
In terms of lyrics, Anodyne is somewhat abstract. They're definitely personal, but they can be open to interpretation. The layout of the album is mostly gray and black. The pages of the booklet are black and have various black/white photos of old brick buildings, walls, streets, and fences. The song names (in gray) and the lyric text (in white) are printed in small font and placed neatly next to the photos.
There are, however, two detractors to this recording. The first is the actual production. Being familiar with Anodyne's style of music and their live performance, the overall recording just doesn't sound full enough. Anodyne should be a wall of sound, loud and overwhelming. While the production for the album is adequate overall, the bass could be a bit louder in terms of the mix. The second main complaint is that the album is just too short. With all the anticipation and hype, I was expecting a grand epic that should have been a lot longer. Instead, the record has only eight tracks spanning slightly over 23 minutes in length.
Bottom Line: Aside from the aforementioned complaints (which are more personal, if anything), a solid effort that should appeal to fans of frantic, noisy hardcore bands in the vein of Deadguy and Unsane. Anodyne has definitely grown in musicianship and writing since its last effort, as displayed by its successful integration of different musical elements into the noise-core formula. The emotional intensity has also increased, adding to the overall feel of the LP. Definitely an album worth purchasing.