Anagnorisis – Peripeteia

Band – Anagnorisis

Album – Peripeteia

Country of Origin – USA

Genre – USBM

Release Date – October 21st, 2016

Label – Vendetta Records

Author – Hayduke X

Anagnorisis – (in ancient Greek tragedy) the critical moment of recognition or discovery, especially preceding peripeteia.” from  

As far back as 2007 with the release of Overton Trees, the Kentucky metal band Anagnorisis has been releasing music in some form.  That line-up featured Austin Lunn (of Panopticon and many others) on vocals and guitar and Adam Pierce on drums, as well as current members Zachary Kerr (then on bass), Zach Denham (guitar), and Samuel Hartman (keyboards) and featured a much stronger death metal influence.  Alpha and Omega came out in 2009 with a change in vocalists to Nathan Bowling.  Both of these early releases are anti-religion in theme, which continues in one form or another through all their material.  Ghosts of Our Fathers was a two song release in 2012 which was designed as a tribute to the recently deceased fathers of Zachary Kerr and Samuel Hartman.  They each wrote lyrics for one of the tracks.  This short release also features Kerr on vocals for the first time in addition to vocals by Julian Kersey.  Chris Smith plays drums on this release.  Beyond All Light (which I reviewed here) was their first true USBM release.  Kerr took over vocals exclusively and Josh Mumford came in to play bass.  I would claim this as their moment of anagnorisis.

Peripeteia – a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, especially in literary work.” from 

On Beyond All Light, Kerr goes deep into the raw pain of his own childhood.  He uses his art to dig deep into his own emotions and memories to find some sense of understanding, even if solace is hard to come by.  On Peripeteia, in many ways an extension (or possibly a completion) of Beyond All Light, he goes even deeper.  Anagnorisis doesn’t just continue a progression from one album to the next here.  While Peripeteia is an impressive album in it’s own right, perfectly capable of standing on it’s own, the eight tracks are meant as bookends to Beyond All Light.  The best way to experience the album is to start with the first five tracks of Peripeteia, then listen to Beyond All Light all the way through, then finish with the final three tracks of Peripeteia.  Listening in this manner shows the sum greater than it’s parts.

Method 1:  Peripeteia on it’s own (which is the initial way I listened) is a solid black metal album which leans even further into the atmospheric end of the genre than it’s predecessor.  The first time through, it actually struck me as slightly weaker than Beyond All Light, mostly because it seemed…well…weaker…or softer.  The album also features samples from two cassettes which Kerr found on the table at home when he went back for his father’s funeral.  The cassettes contain an interview of him as a young child by his dad, as well as other things (including his mom singing a song).

Method 2:  Peripeteia mingled with Beyond All Light as described above comes to light as a masterful work of art.  The album booklet reveals very clearly that a recurring theme is that of a cycle or a loop.  Cycles of betrayal.  Cycles of lies.  Cycles of depression.  Cycles of darkness.  All of these cycles are seen as inter-generational as well as within Kerr’s own life.  As I have listened repeatedly, it has even felt natural to loop the playlist on repeat.  Each listen brings forth new nuances of the art presented by the band.  Even listen cycles me through the darkness anew.

In my opinion, the first act (tracks 1-5 of Peripeteia) feels very outwardly focused, digging into feelings of betrayal of those outside of the artist.  The second act (Beyond All Light) feels like a dark and brutal dive into the deepest pits of negative emotion, but more internally focused.  The final act (the remainder of Peripeteia) strikes me as an acceptance of the darkness, as learning to cope, as new understanding of the forces driving Kerr up to this point.  There is still plenty of vileness in the final act. It would be false to say there was a sense of hope here.  Rather, there is almost a sense of the victory of coming to terms with the darkness of life.

Musically, Peripeteia is has grown immensely from Beyond All Light.  Pablo Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”  Beyond All Light is the band’s masterpiece after learning the rules of black metal as an art form.  It is darkly beautiful, full of vile, pent-up aggression and ceaseless rage.  Peripeteia is where Anagnorisis begin to break the rules like an artist.  I would still classify the album as black metal, though leaning further towards the atmospheric spectrum.  There are still plenty of blast beats and tremolo picking.  The themes are undeniably and exclusively dark.  Kerr’s vocals are still a raging blackened style.  However, especially in the second half, there are influences ranging from 70’s inspired hard rock to dark indie pop buried within the black metal.  All of it expertly placed to draw the listener through a gamut of emotions, making them feel the pain of Kerr’s past in a truly visceral way.

In conclusion, I want to write a bit about the rest of the band.  Kerr indicated to me that during a period that Anagnorisis was without a vocalist, he approached the band with the idea of writing a deeply personal album about his past.  Thankfully for followers of the band’s art, they agreed.  Initially, Beyond All Light was that album, but I think in actuality, the merging of the two is the final vision.  Each of the members plays their part in support of their friend and band-mate masterfully.  This album features some truly transcendent work on guitar from Zak Denham.  As I’m typing this, I’m listening to a guitar solo on Metamorphosis (my favorite track on the album) that both uplifts and grounds the listener in the tragedy of accepting darkness, denying hope.  Samuel Hartman plays keyboards and alto saxophone in addition to other duties.  Keyboards to me have almost always felt like a secondary, almost unnecessary instrument.  Here Hartman makes them essential and emotional.  Josh Mumford provides pounding bass lines which move the story forward moment by moment.  Drums for the album were tracked by Cody McCoy who plays for several bands, including Aylwin and Boreworm.  His playing is everything you could ask and more.

Anagnorisis is heading out on a short tour.  Trust me when I tell you that you want to see them when they come through town.  They absolutely rage on the stage.  They were one of the surprise highlights of the Gilead Media Fest for me when I saw them in 2014. Here are the dates:

11/3 Louisville, KY @ Haymarket Whiskey Bar
11/4 Nashville, TN @ The End
11/5 Knoxville, TN @ The Pilot Light
11/6 Charlotte, NC @ The Milestone
11/7 Richmond, VA @ McCormack’s Irish Pub
11/8 Baltimore, MD @ The Depot
11/9 Brooklyn, NY @ The Well
11/10 Worcester, MA @ Ralph’s Rock Diner
11/11 Clementon, NJ @ Harper’s Pub
11/12 Rochester, NY @ The Bug Jar
11/13 Pittsburgh, PA @ The Smiling Moose
11/14 Columbus, OH @ The Summit
11/15 Indianapolis, IN @ Kuma’s Corner
11/16 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
11/17 Milwaukee, WI @ The Metal Grill
11/18 Detroit, MI @ Corktown Tavern

Finally, I recently had a chance to interview Kerr regarding the new album.  Here are his responses:

Hayduke:  It has been three years since Beyond All Light, your last release.  Why did Peripeteia take so long?

Zachary Kerr: It’s not so much that it took a long period of time to write Peripeteia, as much as it was a matter of having no reason to rush it, and we didn’t want to jump the gun on such a deep concept; we wanted it to have the time to mature.

As a band that doesn’t tour much and certainly doesn’t make any money off of record sales, we don’t really feel the pressure to create strictly for funds to pay our bills. We all have very grounded personal lives in our respective cities and states, and those matters are always a top priority.

HX:  What was the creation process of the album like?  How did that compare to Beyond All Light?

ZK: I had a concept for the record and lyrics written before we started working on the music. We spent a weekend in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains last fall, trying to fit riffs to the feeling of the lyrics and theme of the album until it formed into something resembling a record. We don’t write songs as a traditional band: no one is playing a riff out loud and then the drummer joins in… it’s just not like that for us. Everything is written at a computer, usually by Zak Denham, part by part, until the skeleton is formed and then we move on. Once all of foundations are laid for the songs, we’ll go back in later and start tweaking them, adding choruses or repeating parts and then the elements of keys and atmosphere to smooth it all over.

Beyond All Light was written in a similar manner, just less refined and the concept didn’t come until the music was already in place.

HX:  How do you feel about the finished product?  Do you feel the results justify the long wait between albums?

ZK: Absolutely, Peripeteia is exactly the record I had in mind during the lyric writing process and construction of its meaning. It’s not for me to say if it’s worthy of a three year wait; I think it is well written and shows a level of deeper maturity than our previous efforts… but I’m biased.

HX:  Since Beyond All Light, you have lost drummer Chris Smith and officially have no drummer.  What happened there?  Will Cody McCoy tour with you as drummer?

ZK: It’s not important as to what happened with Chris, sometimes things just don’t work out and that’s okay: it’s life. We’re still friends with Chris and have no ill will towards him. Cody will be playing drums on these 16 dates and then, if he would like to continue to tour with us, he’s always more than welcome to do so.

HX:  What are you hoping for on this tour?  What will the set list look like?

ZK: Personally, I’m just looking forward to seeing old friends and making a few new ones along the way. I like traveling with the band, it’s like getting to go on vacation with my best friends, but don’t necessarily care for playing every night. There’s no sense of glory for me out of performing live and feel like it’s trying to recreate a painting every night, exactly the same, until you just follow the motions. I know it’s more than that, I just prefer the creation process over the recreation process.

We’ll be playing a good mix of songs off of both Peripeteia and Beyond All Light.

HX:  How would you describe an Anagnorisis live show?

ZK: Emotional and raw, but still held together with a fabric of consistency. It’s cathartic and sometimes unnerving and hopefully engaging to those witnessing it.

HX:  My initial response to Peripeteia is that it is less musically intense (maybe leaning closer towards an atmospheric black metal sound than Beyond All Light), but emotionally it’s raised the stakes from B.A.L, itself an emotional journey.  Do you feel that is what you were looking for?

ZK: It’s not meant to be a heavy riff record, it’s about the mood and the sadness of it all. The emotions should be the focal point as the driving force behind it, as it is designed to encapsulate the listener and get them thinking about their past. I wanted it to be used as a tool for people to take a step back into their lives and look at what got them to the point that they are at now. Zak did a great job mixing influences together, to create what I believe is a very unique sound and then capturing that vibe within the recording.

HX:  What do you hope your listeners take from Peripeteia?

ZK: Honesty and sincerity, that’s the main thing. We’ve tried so had to put our lives under the microscope for those willing to look, I just hope that others will begin or continue, to do the same with whatever art they’re creating.

I know we’ll probably take some shit for this record, it’s expected. Creating something so personal, the risk is always there that it won’t be understood, so it’s a good thing that the acceptance of it doesn’t really matter.

Our bassist, Josh Mumford, just lost his father this evening, and as I write this I know that I speak from all of us in this band. This record and band has always been about tragedy and the acceptance of it within our lives. To have Josh tell me how much Peripeteia means to him – as he’s processing the death of his father – that’s all that matters. It has all the meaning that it will ever need to have for me, and I proud of what we’ve done together.

Recommendation:  The recommendation part is easy here…buy Peripeteia.  Buy Beyond All Light if you don’t have it already.  Listen to them in the manner intended.  The rating is difficult.  I gave Beyond All Light a 5/5, a rating I stand behind.  Even before Peripeteia, it was an album I listened to regularly.  However, Peripeteia is better, more nuanced, more mature.  Understand this even as I give an identical rating.

Rating:  5/5

PS.  Look for more Anagnorisis coverage after their tour is complete.