Dreamcatcher is a hardhitting and multi-faceted, if occasionally undefined and longwinded, major label debut from progressive death metal act Aenimus.
Aenimus have been active in San Francisco for most of the 2010s, releasing their debut album Transcend Reality in 2013. The six years since have seen the quintet continue to refine their technical and groove-oriented brand of progressive death metal/core. Now, with support from Nuclear Blast, the group is set to unleash their long-awaited sophomore release, Dreamcatcher.
Nuclear Blast has established itself as a fairly diverse metal label, and the signing of Aenimus to their roster seems to continue their foray into more contemporary progressive death metal/core that one hears on Sumerian Records and its contemporaries. Opener “Before the Eons” has the sharp-edged grooves of early Veil of Maya, while later tracks like “The Ritual” mix Born of Osiris synths and sweeps with more esoteric The Faceless-esque progressive death metal. The presence of Mike Semesky (Interloper, ex-The HAARP Machine, ex-Intervals) on “My Becoming” adds a familiar voice to a similarly familiar sound.
However, Aenimus also incorporate a bevy of other elements into their fifty-five minute full-length. Interludes like the ones at the ends of “The Ritual”, “Between Iron and Silver”, and “Caretaker” are beautiful, classically inspired palette cleansers for the intensity that surrounds them. Nonetheless, it would have been intriguing to hear the band tie these interludes melodically to the songs they intersperse; as they stand, they feel somewhat disjointed. Elsewhere on “Between Iron and Silver” and other tracks, clean singing appears on various tracks, adding melodic hooks into a whirlwind of death metal riffage, mysterious synths, and guttural vocals. Electronic elements even surface on songs like single “The Dark Triad”, which, with its streamlined arrangement, polyrhythmic grooves, keys, and clean sweeps, again draw comparison to Born of Osiris and Desolace.
Though the album is generally enjoyable, a song like “Second Sight” shows Aenimus harnessing their collective talents to greatest effect; an ambient introduction flows into catchy leads overlaying potent grooves quick that lead into a rapid, technical verses all within the first minute of the song. Later in the track, layered singing and ambient instrumentals conjure the cosmic quality of The Contortionist. Fading out on pounding riffage, the track revisits its introduction and creates an interestingly cyclical effect.
Aenimus’ greatest strength is also their most significant challenge on Dreamcatcher. With such a malleable sound, they will easily appeal to fans across metal’s endless subgenres – their music is, at different times, catchy and djenty; relentlessly fast and technical; spacey; ambient; and symphonic. This mix will surely benefit the comparatively new band in building their audience. However, eleven tracks of musical exploration also leave me at a loss to what meaningfully defines the sound of Aenimus. And, with so much ground covered here, it leaves the album occasionally feeling overlong and overstuffed. Interweaving a number of musical tropes at this level of quality is impressive, but leaves me wondering who Aenimus is. While this album is solid in construction and will appeal to a wide extreme metal audience, I hope to hear Aenimus further define their own sound with future releases.