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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Aaen Anima

Aaen Anima 2 EP 1 & 2

Review by Bruce Stringer

Founded in 2002, this exciting Czech / Slovak musical unit covers a sparse field in their recent re-issue of Aaen Anima 2, a double CD EP of haunting avant-garde and progressive doom epics. Reminiscent of the elongated, moody musical orchestrations of acts like early Yes or the soundtracks of Italy’s Goblin, Aaen Anima manage to cross over with the heavier elements of bands like Celtic Frost and all without the aid of a drummer. With a whole host of releases under the belt, the music is – at times – brutal and confronting and the influences vary widely. Once heard, one thing is for sure: the sonic intrigues of Aaen Anima are not easily forgotten!

It would seem that this music might be best suited to soundtracks – especially considering its similarity to the film work by Goblin – but it could very well have crossover appeal to fans of some of the experimental acts of yore or the progressive rock fan in search of something different. In the future, when a high-level re-master is available, this release – and much of the Aaen Anima back catalogue – should take its place as an important musical milestone in exploratory European / Eastern Bloc culture.

The music of Aaen Anima is available free to download from the group’s websites:
www.sweb.cz/aaen_anima     and www.aaen-anima.ic.cz.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
EP 1
Track 1
Consisting of one enormous track approaching the 13-minute mark, what the listener is confronted with takes the form of a live recording featuring classical guitar introduction. Before long, a deathly overdriven guitar rages forth (with growling intensity as Pusshead would say – ed.) twisting the direction sideways before a brief spell on violin and interactions with the heavier and lighter than air elements. The vocals are strained and passionate, stretching sinews and tendons to near breaking point.
The music changes swiftly balancing a Van Der Graaf style violin theme over some Floydian guitar rhythms. In fact, there seems to be an atmosphere of Pink Floyd that permeates the cathedral reverb of which this recording contains much.  The music builds and falls like a classically orchestrated piece and it seems that there is always some new harmony or melody approaching – a quality that elevates the song above mere notes and chords.  The song has various movements with ambitious titles like “To See The Fifth Dimension,” “Dialogue” and “My Ancient Life In Egypt” of which the themes flow through. The fade-off at 12:30 comes during a tension filled guitar-violin sparring match, which is a pity as the energy is just working towards its peak.
EP 2
Track 1
This appears to be a recording of a very similar piece extrapolated at intervals with extensions and minor improvisational aids to achieve different moods. There is the interesting classical guitar work that progresses towards a Spanish influence and then onto a jazz-like chord progression. There are chromatics at work and moments of near-Crimson genius. The reverberation is very natural and sounds like the recording was made in an ancient cathedral.  The instrumental clocks in at just on 13:18 and is a grand undertaking. Again, “My Ancient Life In Egypt” makes an appearance along with other segments (- one, named “Walking Through The Midnight Sun,” evokes surreal imagery). There are very definite dynamics in the experience as the variety of styles and scored passages take the listener on a journey that warrants further study for the territory, in this case, is definitely not the map… It is much, much more and will surely be released as such in due time.
Track 2
The second and final piece on this second disc of the set (lasting approximately 15:00) begins with the now familiar classical strains before a brief pause, whereby a hardcore vocal presence is entertained. The screechy vocal chords are, again, strained and deliver bite. The chord work is intriguing. As the timing becomes scattered and deliberate in its staccato spookiness an effect-laden demon growls with delayed feedback tones in the background. Oddly, with the style of vocals so shocking it is never overplayed and at no time does it take away from the impact of the guitar craft.
The picking is reminiscent of Marillion’s “Grendel” and some of the obviously sparse arpeggiation pays homage to the work of artists like Alex Lifeson. Still, the doomier moments lie shallow of the surface and seem to be in waiting for the waters to darken.
 
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