Enigmatic Smile

Written by: TL on 02/03/2015 16:13:28

It's barely been a year since the young German metalcore quintet Annisokay emerged on the scene with their debut LP "Lucid Dream(er)", yet here they are back already with a new album in form of "Enigmatic Smile", ready to be released in a couple of weeks. If there were any doubts about their aspirations to align with the modern names in the genre, they should be put to rest upon reading that the style's go-to producer Joey Sturgis has also been hired to make sure the Germans cross every box of what's expected of their type of band. American bands like Blessthefall, The Devil Wears Prada and In Fear And Faith thus come to mind as apt comparisons, as do European mainland peers like Adept.

Curiously, despite the production being a Sturgis job, "Enigmatic Smile" still sounds like a European metal record, feeling frosty and just that bit more polished and spacious than your average American counterpart, most of which often feel like they've been pushed to more vulgar extremes. Regardless, the building stones are still as expected: Across the verses menacing bass and low-tuned guitars chug and rollick in measured, fist-pump-friendly grooves, while the choruses substitute screamer Dave Grunewald's vocal work for the dramatic clean singing of guitarist Christoph Wieczorek. As is common for the genre, much is on Wieczorek's shoulders in terms of making the band stand out, and there's some satisfaction in hearing him put in an only modestly processed recorded performance, making for a base level of credibility that some of the similar bands with worse singers sorely miss. The eleven tracks on offer flow along efficiently, with the hooks appearing in the expected places and breaking from the verses in ways that are sufficient dynamic to engage the listener according to the genre's basic premises. You don't really get the feeling that the band has had to stitch things awkwardly together the way many of their more unfortunate peers have, but you do get the familiar impression that the group's ranges are actually rather limited when looking at their heavy and the melodic abilities separate from each other.

Halfway through the record, the heavy/catchy formula does start to grow a bit stale then, yet attempts have wisely been made to counteract this in the band's collaboration with Sturgis. The songs might not differ much in nuance, but several of them have small gimmicks to set them apart instead. After the initially catchy by-the-books opener "Carry Me Away" then, "Naked City" adds a tasty little curl to a riff in its bridge for fans to air guitar to, while "Fame" and "Wolves In The Walls" stand out via electronic infusions in their intros, and particularly the latter is unmistakable for its chopped up vocal samples. Curiously though, it's the tried-and-tested approach of simply previewing the chorus up front in "New Autumn Light" that allows it to figure as perhaps the catchiest song on the album, even despite its late appearance as the penultimate track.

Overall, Annisokay does enough on "Enigmatic Smile" to justify their existence and sound potent, in a genre where many new bands fail at even this. In their collaboration with Sturgis they've created a solid record which shows a clear understanding of what makes metalcore engaging in the first place and display their suggestions to what nuances can make the style sound relevant in 2015. That said there are advanced areas where the band can still improve. You don't get the charismatic, technically impressive guitar passages of top dog band like Darkest Hour or August Burns Red, nor do the vocals, neither clean nor harsh, appear more than solid when measured against the bars set by a Howard Jones or a Spencer Chamberlain. Such things are still areas ahead of Annisokay that they can choose to work on, or they could just try to give future records added depth by coming up with more nuances to their homogenous core expression. For now though, "Enigmatic Smile" is the definition of a solid release, which should serve the band's career well, even if it doesn't quite put them in contention as a top name in their field.


Download: New Autumn Light, Carry Me Away, Naked City, Wolves In The Walls
For The Fans Of: Adept, The Devil Wears Prada, Blessthefall, In Fear And Faith

Release date 20.03.2015
SPV / Long Branch Records

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