Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review: Anti-M - Damage (2008)

Anti-M [Website | MySpace ]

Anti-M is a California electronica band formed by keyboardists John Wardlaw, Ruston Slager, and Mark Rumer (who's no longer with the band). Before you dismiss this review as being off-topic, their latest release Damage marks a significant shift in style for Anti-M. It seems that while he was writing Damage, Wardlaw had been listening to some heavy music by outfits such as Godsmack, Lacuna Coil, and Evanescence. Inspired, he recruited singer Barbara Moseley and guitarist Jon Moseley to provide Anti-M  with a heavier, Gothic Rock oriented sound. The result is a perceptible shift from their previous albums, but only slightly so. The progressive, synthesized elements remain entrenched but there are enough points of interest to catch the attention of open-minded rock and metal fans.

The most distinctive thing about Damage, from a rock/metal perspective, is the voice of Barbara Moseley. She can easily hold her ground with such notable metal maidens as Lotta Höglin (Beseech), Anette Blyckert (Nightwish), and Liv Kristine (Leaves' Eyes, Theatre of Tragedy), though she appears to be a relative newcomer. She handles a slight majority of the vocal duties on the album, with her best performance coming on the ambient ballad "Deep". The track is keyboard heavy, but Jon Moseley delivers a stirring solo to go along with Barbara's warm vocals. The following track, "Rage", has a distinctly Loreena McKennitt feel to it, with some Middle Eastern styled guitar leads and a mesmerizing, fairly complex solo. As good as both tracks are, they're by no means metallic or even rockish. The very early stages of Damage, songs "Let U In" and the title track, are the most up-tempo of the album and can be compared to late-'80s Lita Ford with their screeching leads, slightly subdued riffs, and layered vocals.

By the sixth track, "It's All Inside", Anti-M begins a palpable shift back to their earlier style of progressive/electronic rock. This song in particular is the first not to feature Barbara's welcoming voice, which makes for a bit of a jarring transition - not to mention the ballad sounds as if it should have been included on the Top Gun movie soundtrack. "Beautiful Babe", on the other hand, finds Slager doing an impressive Bowie impersonation with Barbara helping out on backing vocals. From this point on, Barbara returns only in supporting roles as the music continues to cultivate more of a New Wave sound than anything heavier, with "Into The Rain" being the best song from the latter half of the album. It's a soulful guitar-driven ballad, slightly reminiscent of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters", with a strong, expansive solo from Jon. "Sixth Extinction" is notable for being the most progressive song by far, with intricate bass lines, somber piano passages, and complex guitar/keyboard solo interplay.

Damage is definitely not a metal album, and only at times is it a rock album. However, for metal and hard rock fans with eclectic listening tastes, the album does contain quite a number of intriguing moments and is certainly worth investigating further. Anti-M may not have made the leap from electronica to Gothic hard rock, but they're headed in the right direction and with Barbara remaining behind the mic the distance to that goal has been significantly reduced.

Track Listing
1Dreaming In Metaphor4:49
2Let U In3:09
6It's All Inside4:56
7Little Things3:50
8Beautiful Babe4:07
9Waita While4:11
10Rose of Love4:43
11Godzilla vs Rodan1:53
12Into The Rain3:48
15Damage In The Dream5:54
16The Sixth Extinction7:05
17No Kill I4:54
Total Runtime1:13:08

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