Anthelion has a special place in my heart for being one of the first extreme metal bands out of Asia that really caught my attention. Their 2007 album Bloodshed Rebefallen, along with their 2004 EP Bloodstained Anthelion and their contribution to the Ultimate Metal compilation were all excellent to say the least, as they display their ability to weave symphonic and melodic elements into their music, so it was pretty understandable that I got excited knowing that there were new songs being written and eventually released in the form of their new EP, Manjusaka.
As evidenced in the opening track of Bloodshed Rebefallen, Snake Corpse, it was obvious how awkward it was for vocalist Code and the band to execute their songs in English. Code even mentioned in a promotional interview for Bloodshed Rebefallen that the most difficult track to record was the opening English track. The band decided to record Manjusaka in their native language, Chinese, and the result shows as the album definitely shows the band in a less awkward moment compared to before.
Right after the introductory track with oriental sounding strings Anthelion breaks into their regular black metal fare, but this time at a large slowdown compared to what was present on their previous releases. While Code’s alternating shrieks and growls and Anthelion’s trademark keyboard laden atmosphere are still present, it feels as if the band were unmotivated and simply going with the flow. While the piano tracks on Bloodshed Rebefallen were suitable and appropriate, the short piano interludes in the middle of songs feel like unnecessary additions on this EP. Songs like Black Mist, Remnant Flames though clocking at only 6:31 felt like an eternity and got repetitive by the halfway mark. Furthermore, with the lack of variety, the EP gets slightly boring with the band moving at the same speed throughout the 4 tracks. Even attempts to speed up the pace of the song such as on The Ashen River sound lethargic and certainly ruined the enjoyment.
This is not to say that the EP is a complete wreckage though as Code manages to display his agony through his style of vocals, such as towards the end of the track The Ashen River. In addition, the band manages to convey their sadness and emotions in the title track, something that the band is so known for. Unfortunately, me being bad at Chinese (or rather, lazy) means that I am unable to fully comprehend the lyrics on the EP which if done would certainly intensify the Anthelion experience.
Perhaps I’m just nitpicking, or perhaps the band has simply decided to shift their musical direction, but after hearing what they managed to achieve on their debut full length has certainly set a bench mark for the band and unfortunately, this fails to meet the standard set by them for me. To put it simply, this whole EP just sounds like the slower tracks on Bloodshed Rebefallen played over and over again, not a bad thing if you are a die-hard Anthelion fan then, I suppose!
Anthelion on the internet: