The Dutch quartet Anomaly plays crunchy, instrumental progressive metal with melodic development and intricate rhythms, a completely different band and style from the Florida, light prog rock Anomaly of Jim Studnicki and Jim Dorian that featured the rhythm section of Cynic.
Anomaly adroitly tackles the difficult task of writing engaging instrumental metal by utilizing the melodic roles of guitar, keyboards, and bass, in addition to their rhythmic roles ordinarily featured in heavy music. Solid riffs alternate with melodic passages, and crunchy guitars with piano or ambient synth textures. Gentle passages, such as the bass and synth intro to "Mt Chamber," compliment the heavy sections, but they bleed off some of the aggressive steam and usually contain less of the snappy rhythmic interplay found in the rest of the music. The main guitar riffs in different songs occasionally sound fleetingly similar, such as the heavy arppegiated chord patterns of "B-yond 2K" and "101101001."
Anomaly effectively mixes jazz and fusion influences into their instrumental metal, despite the awkwardly placed swing intro of ">4hth&x." Several passages impressively combine the quieter, melodic feel with the rhythmic pulsing of the crunch, including the mellow synth lead over a tight guitar and drum pattern in the intro to "Vir2al," and the atonal piano line over guitar and drums at about 1:50 in "Xtreme." Keyboardist Ivar Pijper writes or co-writes all but one of the songs, but the arrangements spread the focus among all instruments. The melodic lines of Pijper's keyboards and Rory Hansen's guitar keep the instrumental metal uncommonly engaging.
Hansen plays rhythm guitar with tight, melodic metal chops like late 80s Fates Warning. Some album reviews have superficially and misguidedly compared him to fusion legend Allan Holdsworth, but Hansen's smooth lead style is more crisp than Holdsworth's liquid, saxophone inspired tone, and he perfectly compliments the melodic crunch of Anomaly's music. The sharp rhythm section work of both bass and drums leads the guitar without missing a step.
Anomaly sounds clear and dry, retaining a pure tone and sound that places the focus on their music. The heavy yet articulate guitar sound represents an ideal crunch tone, and the bass projects openly on high, melodic passages as well as low bass lines. Some odd choices of synth texture occasionally draw attention, but the electric organ, clean piano, and analog synth patches appropriately complement the feel of the music.
The mature song writing, playing, and production of Anomaly's self-titled debut CD compares very favorably to the few instrumental metal bands out there today. It retains metal, rock, and jazz and fusion elements without leaning excessively toward any one of those styles.
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