Asymmetry - Anima

Asymmetry – Anima

Belarusian band Asymmetry appear to have been around for some time, with several line-up changes along the way. From what I can tell, the only remaining member from the original band is Ruslan Kotowski. Dipping a toe into their back catalogue, possibly the most important line-up change was the addition of Yulia Skvortsova on vocals. And, of course, along with all the line-up changes over the years, the music has changed somewhat, too. All the twists and turns along the way have added up to make Anima a very interesting album. In fact, in a way, the continuous cycle and journey of birth and rebirth of the band seems to be reflected in the songs of this album. The result is an album that is far less monochromatic than earlier releases, with some quite intriguing deviations from the djent style of prog metal that predominates.

The album begins with a short instrumental piece called Anemoia – which is a lovely word describing a sense of nostalgia for a time one has never actually known. The term was coined in 2014 by John Koenig, writer of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, in which Koenig aimed to fill the gaps he perceived in the English language with new names for emotions we recognise but don’t have a word for. This is just one example, for me, of how much thought Asymmetry have put into this album, the title of which probably suggests Jung’s anima and animus, and the unconscious shadow that makes up the self; but I can’t help also thinking it might reflect on the anima of animism, which also addresses the self – but in very different ways. That the band put the word “self” in inverted commas in an early lyric from the first song, Keepers, expresses both the importance and ambiguity of self in terms of the album’s concept.

Keepers also provides the first taste of Yulia Skvortsova‘s vocals, and they are so very striking. I’m generally not one to be taken by vocals, but Skvortsova has such a strong and passionate style that effortlessly sings some rather complicated lyrical ideas. The lyrics are almost closer to prose than poetry, and the fact they can be sung so tunefully and powerfully is quite impressive. They’re also sung in English, and with barely a trace of an accent. Skvortsova’s vocals provide a really wonderful counterpoint to the aggressive djent styling of the music underneath her soaring and atmospheric presence. To me, Skvortsova’s vocals have more of a pop style than metal – and I do not mean that in a dismissive, negative or insulting manner. Rather, I find the contrast they provide one of the greatest attractions. And while I normally prefer to hear vocalists sing in their native language, there is no doubt that I would never have got into the concept of the album, had they not been sung in English.

It is only my interpretation, but the constant allusions to time and memories seems to suggest that the anemoia that began the album is perhaps memories of past lives. The lyrics appear to suggest the idea of Samsara, an eternal wandering of the soul, until one finds one’s self in Moksha. Samsara varies in scope depending on tradition and religion, but some hold that all human and non-human anima, such as rainfall, are believed to be constantly changing bodies over time. Samsara and animism go hand in hand with this interpretation. The final lyrics of Luminescent are fitting: “Thousands of years will pass, before anyone will know, what it feels to live your darkest memories, over and over again”. As is the title of the following Phoenix – a universal symbol of rebirth.

I love that the next song is titled Thalassa Embrace. Why settle for a simple ‘Ocean’s Embrace’ when you can use the primeval spirit of the sea? What better way to give another sense of the eternity of Samsara than alluding to an ancient myth, and at the same time the sense of anima/animism that gives everything a lifeforce of its own. Thalassa Embrace feels like a turning point in the album, and my favourite songs tend to be those occurring from this point. Everything feels palpably more hopeful and optimistic from here. As per Exile’s lyrics, the “time has come, the grand finale is set”. The use of more jazzy passages only emphasise this change in outlook and circumstance. I love the jazzy breakdown towards the end of Exile, and the saxophone in Despair is sublime. This song is one that sounds nothing like its title, and rather one about overcoming despair. The whole song soars just as the final lines suggest the protagonist wishes to.

I thought Inception II was probably one of the oldest songs on the album, having been a stand-alone single in 2017 (with The Inception being a similar stand-alone single in 2016), but having looked at the band’s YouTube page, it’s clear that this album (and concept) have been germinating for some time. Regardless, the lyrics are a perfect description of Moksha, and this is a grand finale indeed. Triumphant, jubilant, final. Except, of course, it’s not. The album ends, as it began, with an instrumental – although this is a full-length piece. It’s beautifully ethereal – or perhaps I should say æthereal, for we all end up in the æther. It ties everything together. Æther is the breath of life of the anima; æther is the Akasha – it is the one, the eternal, the all-pervading, that Moksha releases one into, from the bondage of Samsara; and Æther is the father of Thalassa, whose embrace led to this point. Again, I can’t claim this to be anything other than my interpretation, and it may not be what the band intended at all, but to a certain extent, it is how we as individuals interpret music, rather than any artist’s intent, that provides our enjoyment. And Sentimental, for me, is a wonderful coda to a truly impressive and immersive debut album.

01. Anemoia (1:32)
02. Keepers (5:33)
03. Luminescent (4:27)
04. Phoenix (5:20)
05. Thalassa Embrace (4:28)
06. Exile (3:55)
07. Despair (4:56)
08. Inception II (4:31)
09. Sentimental (3:45)

Total Time – 38:24

Yulia Skvortsova – Vocals
Ruslan Kotowski – Guitar
Sergey Grigoriev – Guitar
Valery Pavluchenko – Bass
Anton Kurek – Drums

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Belarus
Date of Release: 18th May 2021

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