Evergreen Refuge — Anima
I have a very odd relationship with this album, and I am only just now getting around to reviewing it. I first came across Anima second-hand, a recommendation of unknown provenance at this point — but probably Stereo Gum's Black Market article series. However it was pitched to me, Anima checked-off all the right boxes: atmospheric black metal, one-man project, obscure nature theme, instrumental. I was given a link to stream the album from a record label's Bandcamp website, and quite enjoyed the album in its entirety. I wanted to purchase the album right away, but there was a bit of a snag.
It was only available as a cassette tape. Yes. Yes, a cassette. And no, there was no digital download option. Not only did I have to buy a tape — for which I have not had a player in over a decade because seriously, tapes?! — but it came in a hand-crafted, wooden case. First, I am stuck with the most hipster of audio formats and now I've got to indulge some boutique label owner's carpentry hobby?! I have been resigned to ordering a vinyl record from Australia, just to get the included digital download, but there was no way in Hell I was going to buy a cassette tape and find a way to rip to my PC — not because it would be difficult but because fuck you, no! I attempted contacting the seller on Facebook, but never received any response about a digital-only download. (I will assume he was crushed by a tree he was cutting down to make more stashboxes for cassette tapes.)
Every 6 months or so, I would do a cursory search for the album in hopes of finding it for download. I had the label's Bandcamp entry saved, and would stream the album periodically. During my last check-up, the label linked the Evergreen Refuge Bandcamp page, which was willing to take my money in exchange for bits and bytes as opposed to pine and magnetic tape. The site may have been there the whole time, but for the sake of my ego we're operating as though that is not the case. (As you may be able to tell, the whole tape-in-a-box thing struck a bit of a raw nerve.)
As for the album, Anima is very enjoyable. The project has a very spontaneous, organic feeling to it; just 2 tracks — because a tape is 2 sides, you see — comprising a solid hour of material that flows together as one long piece. A purely instrumental album, Anima sounds very much like Deafest but a lot more rudimentary in composition. A mixture of simple, buzzing, Black Metal 101 riffs — replete with tremolo picking — blare over mid-tempo blast beats for approximately half of the material. At times, the instrumentation veers off into acoustic, folk territory — maintaining the simple, minimalist aesthetic and style, but shifting genres entirely. All of this is mixed over a backdrop of ambient nature sounds, which gives the material an earthy, naturalistic feeling. To say nothing else, Anima really emphasises the 'atmospheric' aspect of the genre.
Musically, there is not a whole lot to this project, it's a very droning, repetitive recording. Yet, in spite of this, Anima is a very compelling experience; an instrumental project that takes its time to build to climaxes and the transitions to and from the acoustic passages keep everything from getting too monotonous. It's hard to pick any specific portions of Anima to point out, as it really is greater than the sum of its parts, giving doses of intense sonic cacophony and relaxing melody at just the right moments. This is an album for a long walk outside, the more removed from the city the better.
Instrumental black metal with a touch of minimalist acoustic folk, possibly performed in the woods. Evergreen Refuge present an hour of intriguing music that rewards a patient listener with entrancing melodies and long, rewarding builds throughout. The listing of 2 tracks is a formality, as this is one continuous piece of music. Anima asks a fair bit of the listener, but those with some patience and interest in more ambient, atmospheric music — in addition to metal — would be well served by giving this album a look.
Release date: September 9th, 2016
Record label: Independent
Dylan Rupe — guitars, mandolin, bass, percussion, voice
Paul Ravenwood — flute
- Anima I
- Anima II
Published: March 2nd, 2018.