[Album Review] Anchoress- Crime & Compass
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by Mark Anthony Brennan

crime

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Release Date: August 12th, 2014
Label: File Under: Music

Despite the themes of social decay and destruction, and despite the spit-in-your-eye punk onslaught of the music, ‘Crime/Compass’ is not a work of pure nihilism. The lyrics tackle issues such as ecological disaster, societal breakdown, alcohol abuse, self-loathing and disaffection with poetic phrasing and reflective thought. These guys actually care about these issues. Anchoress may not be the first intellectual punk band in history, but you’ll be hard pressed to find such a stark contrast between the blistering, steel-edged assault of the music and the beautiful intelligence of the prose.

Anchoress delivers its punk at a break-neck pace, and they rarely lift their foot off the pedal. Backed by stalwarts Ricky Castanedo (bass) and Chris Lennox-Aasen (drums), guitarist Keenan Federico leads the charge with a primarily hardcore bent, but occasionally displaying a more metalcore leaning (e.g. on “The Rumrunner Blues”) or even math rock in the case of “Capture”.

Then there is singer/lyricist, Rob Hoover, whose half-screeched vocal delivery is so ferociously intense that you feel he is reaching out through the speakers and throttling you. But then you realize he is not angry at you, he is angry at the state of our world and our society. On “Disaster Porn”, for example, he disdainfully observes the perverse pleasure that we take in witnessing our own destruction:

Build up our cities and watch them fall down

Build up our lives and watch them fall down

And on the TV, we’re watching them burn

And on “Break the Dam, Release the River” he calls out our Prime Minister for his poor efforts to address climate change:

Oh Stephen, how you’ve failed us all

Like a guard dog howling at the lights passing in the night

While thieves break in through the back, you’re missing the point

The band’s entire toolbox of skills is put to work on “Torrential”. It starts with the slow throbbing of bass that leads into Hoover’s spoken word delivery of the song’s one and only verse. He tells us that rain falls on the unloved, but if you reach out and take a risk you might find love because, after all, “bad weather can’t follow you everywhere.” This is followed by a progressive, post-rock instrumental lead by Federico. But then a musical deluge is unleashed, lashing down on you like the heaviest pineapple express to ever hit the coast of BC (it’s torrential, you see?). Hoover repeats the verse in a scream, but this time the emphasis is on the rain that will be heaped on you as one of the miserable unloved. Brilliant stuff really.

Although intended to be one coherent album, in its physical form it is divided into two EP’s (‘Crime’ and ‘Compass’, respectively). This is probably a good thing because the pounding music drains you physically and the demanding lyrics drain you emotionally, so six tracks in one sitting is about all you can take.