My first impression of Animi was that it was some sort of djent/techno-metal hybrid. There is a sense that the ideas presented have the same sort of technical complexity used by the likes of TesseracT and Periphery (with a lot of the same obnoxiously derivative, unmusical qualities), but with a machine-like, clinical quality that can only come from relentless over-editing in the studio. Every track on the album is obviously chopped, gated and compressed to create jarring dead silences between notes, giving the illusion that the band is actually able to sync up more tightly than would be humanly possible otherwise. Carefully written special effects, fades and stutters throughout the album indicate that Subversion have at least one laptop on stage for backing tracks. A quick Youtube search proved me right, although, ironically, I found their live performance to be much more listenable than their recorded work since it doesn’t sound like I’m listening to a machine.
Despite the over-arching clinical theme of Animi, there are attempts at dynamic changes in the music which is always something I can respect. Some of the passages that feature piano and strings are more or less pleasant, except for the Sonny Moore-ish emo vocals that are pervasive throughout. These bother me to varying degrees depending on how many backing vocal tracks are mixed in at any given time.
I really don’t like not being able to find a single redeeming quality in music created by people who obviously have a high degree of ability. The truth is that the members of Subversion really do have to know what they’re doing to come up with the concepts that support this music. The trouble is that they rely way too much on the capabilities of modern recording techniques to get their sound. As I learned the first time I saw TesseracT live, this can lead to a lot of disappointment for fans. That said, Subversion’s live performance on the video I found (“Butchered” live at The Facemelter in November 2014) is much easier to listen to than Animi.
To find appreciation for Animi, I had to listen to it music from the same perspective that I would approach an electronica or techno record. There isn’t any expectation that I’ll be hearing the organic performance qualities I’d normally look for when I know a human is playing the music. I’m sure part of it is also my general bias against the “djent” genre and it’s various spin-offs, which I have ranted about in greater detail in other reviews. I had similar comments about parts of Periphery’s new records, Juggernaut Alpha and Juggernaut Omega, although there is actually a lot of material I really like on them. But with Animi, Subversion have provided a perfect example of what over-production in modern recording sounds like, and there are just too many elements preventing me from wanting to listen to it. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with everything I’ve said here, but I would’ve been much happier listening to their live recordings.
Animi is out March 3 on Rogue Records. Pre-order it here!
SkullsNBones Rating (Out Of 5):