ANATOMIA – Corporeal Torment (2021)REVIEW

Stretched across the breaking wheel for decades and dissolving at all telomeric ends, the wisened ear for the deranged does not transcend with experience but instead deforms as an act of sympathetic decay. With age the cold numbness of noise only intensifies the response of the body, all manner of corrosive death-wrack prepares us for mortality better than others, resonating deeper with every failure and collapse of shambling flesh. The legend of Tokyo, Japan-borne death/doom metal duo Anatomia speaks through the trauma of shriveled organs, marveling at dried psychedelic molds cresting eternally writhing skeletal bodies set in cruel piles beneath the endless shades of grey stone. What heaviness expresses within their craft pours from an ear as miasma attuned to the weight of dirt and stone compacted upon tombs for decades, stomped and levelled with the permanence of death in mind. Past works have taken us within the elaborate terrarium of our own future coffins, bursting with cannibalistic invasion and tortures lain upon the living dead, yet this fourth album, ‘Corporeal Torment‘, appears to convey death in progress as a shock into terrifying delay of numbness — The sharpest suffering of flayed skin, the ten-thousand stings a riot of pricking nerves delivers as they’re cauterized and sloughed off by an agent of deprivation, and finally the thump of a dead limb attached to a tortured mental husk. Ominous in the most classic sense yet droning with a taste for the funereal avant-garde, this sprawling bout of desolation is among the duo’s finest work to date.

Infamously morbid and universally revered in the realm of old school death/doom metal madness from the start, Anatomia arrived back in 2002 already bearing considerable respect for members’ past involvement in the formative Japanese death metal scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s with three members originally featuring in Necrophile, Sad on Death, Necro-E and the goddamned magical realm of Transgressor with two members having been key components of ‘Ether For Scapegoat‘ (1992), perhaps the first and most professional death metal album released in Japan with no intended disrespect towards Rose Rose ‘Brutalize’ and Voidd‘s ‘Desperate Truth’, these were more death/thrash or grindcore in spirit by most accounts. The weirding, fastidious death/doom that fueled the earlier Transgressor material with a steady diet of ‘Mental Funeral’ was still intact on Anatomia‘s debut full-length (‘Dissected Humanity‘, 2005) but it was clear they’d not been complacent in the decade since, always ‘old school’ and raw in terms of production values but embracing the brutality of the times with a sort of “show ’em how” spirit. Now, with that album being on Necroharmonic and Coffins‘ debut being on Razorback during that label’s prime buzz during the same year, a lot of folks tended towards the (then) more visible ‘Mortuary in Darkness’. I’d not discovered Anatomia until someone had suggested ‘Dissected Humanity’ as a “for fans of” release about a year later. I mention them both for the same reasons others did back in 2005, each did essentially have this lineage of ancient death/doom metal in mind. You’ll largely see Autopsy as a major reference within Anatomia‘s style due to that first album (it even features a cover of “Stillborn”) but beyond that point of inception their sound would continue to evolve in broad steps via frequent splits releases and infrequent full-lengths.

A transition from die-hard old school death/doom metal sounds towards modern and somewhat experimental movements is yet incomplete until we can pick through the corpse of ‘Corporeal Torment’ but we can see a sort of see shades of early Hooded Menace in ‘Decaying in Obscurity‘ (2012) and perhaps the atmospheric, funereal gnarl of Krypts in ‘Cranial Obsession‘ (2017) albeit light comparisons on my part. What stands out in revisiting these two works is the decisive sound design, holding fast to this “garage” death metal guitar sound with heavy string scraping on the second album and a fixation upon funeral pacing and guitar-feedback wrangling on the third, experimental in the same way certain Corrupted releases are. If you worship albums like ‘Darkness Drips Forth’ this is the era of the band to really sink into; Songs like “Vanishment” and “Abysmal Decay” were in many ways a sort of precursor thought on stark and raw funeral death/doom that is more sparingly applied to the experience of ‘Corporeal Torment’. Oddly enough as much as I love those two albums, especially ‘Cranial Obsession’, the ‘Hollowed Cadaver‘ (2019) demo from a few years later is yet one of my all-time favorite songs from the project and thankfully they’ve generally kept this grotesque, over the top sound in place for this fourth album.

Pulling back on the torturous ~70 minute excess of ‘Cranial Obsession’ and reeling in closer to forty minutes doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Corporeal Torment’ is any more focused or exacting than their previous revelation but it does allow for a reasonably complete showcase of their evolution in the span of about twenty years. “Dismemberment” storms in with a classic death metal opener, guttural and clipping above a mid-pace before hitting a sort of “A Forest” chord progression unto an unforgettably lain doom metal fade out. Simple as these movements are they hit just as intended, gut-churning and perfectly morbid death/doom collapse. The lungs begin to pop, the body aches and the eyes are too red to see through as “Slime of Putrescence” takes us to the most Eldritch and rotten extremes of this style and beyond the layers of funeral death/doom brutality position us to appreciate the variety of techniques and tonal range of the vocal work here; This was already in place on previous works but the level of lung-emptying disgust here is admirably placed, breathing death itself with every mucous-lined gargle into the abyss. This is even more impressive as we reach track three, “Despaired Void”, and find even more variety within the vocal performances via similarly extended rasps, monastic chanting, and incredible inhaled verses as we hit the ~3:00 minute mark. Side A almost plays as a collage of ideas that wouldn’t specifically recall the oppressive point made on the previous album, “something new” around every corner of those three pieces, I only wish they’d been able to find a place for “Hollowed Cadaver” on this album even if it would have been off-pace with these meditative and paling works otherwise.

Side B is just one ~21 minute piece “Mortem” and ultimately represents the numbness into death I’d suggested prior, a severed limb and the ghostly presence of trauma in reflection of horrors. This isn’t the first piece from the band to emit some level of crossover between funeral death/doom and drone/doom but the level of admixture here will prove daunting for folks seeking chunky, riffing 90’s death/doom. The effect conveyed without prior pieces on this album already hinted at this obsession with appearing in slow motion, a gradual decline and the stillness beyond death but “Mortem” begins to invoke this feeling of lost control, dread and drowning collapse as life leaves the body by providing a literal sensation with its stewing non-movement. This is either an improvised jam session with an noise collage created on the spot or, the most ‘experimental’ piece from the project to date, recalling the best of Chaos Echœs‘ descent into madness. Some will consider it grating filler, a null side of the album and others will be immersed from the get-go. I wasn’t sure how I’d felt about this one in terms of a vinyl grab simply because I knew I’d end up wearing far deeper grooves on Side A in the long run. Because of this I’ll likely grab it on CD just for the sake of letting the whole thing breathe without my interruption since the effect is ultimately striking when resigned to the sensation provided by immersion into “Mortem”. This does ultimately make ‘Corporeal Torment’ a difficult recommendation for folks seeking the status quo for death/doom as Anatomia have breached even deeper beyond their funereal-doomed side and grasped at something freshly lucid beyond. For my own taste, and from the perspective of someone who already owns their main discography, this is a welcomed unexpected event though I would expect it to be jarring for riff-hounds without a fix for twenty minutes straight. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Corporeal Torment
LABEL(S):Dark Descent Records,
Me Saco Un Ojo
RELEASE DATE:May 20th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Death/Doom Metal

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