A blessing and a curse of the musical explosion of recent years is that there are now far more heavy metal albums being released every month than any one person can possibly keep up with. On the one hand, it’s fantastic because the opportunities for discovering killer new bands are virtually limitless. On the other hand, it’s a drag because truly exceptional bands are falling through the cracks, their music simply being drowned out by the endless cacophony of noise without ever reaching the right ears. Like many of you probably, I’ve got a short list of personal favorite newer bands that most people (including many of my most voracious underground metal friends) have never heard. For me, one of the most prominent bands on that list is Aenimus. The unsigned quartet from Skelleftea, Sweden have been a going concern since 2009, but they landed on my radar in a huge way in 2014 when a copy of their debut album, This Illusion, reached my hands. This Illusion bowled me over, capturing my imagination and my heart in a way that precious few albums do these days, and I found myself coming back to it on dozens of occasions in the last few years. I’m incredibly fond of This Illusion to this day.
Much to my excitement, Aenimus released their second full-length album, The Final Warning, a few weeks ago. In response to my breathless inquiries, the band went to the trouble of packing up a copy of the CD, a shirt, and even a couple of used guitar picks for me. They gave me the special pricing deal from their record release show in Sweden because they said they knew I’d have been there in person if I could. That, my friends, is the right way to treat your fans. I’ve now had a couple weeks to live with The Final Warning, and I am very happy to report that it is in every way a strong, worthy successor to This Illusion. I know, most of you never heard This Illusion, so that reassurance doesn’t help much. You want a description? Swedish heavy metal. Aenimus’s sound is built on a sturdy backbone of traditional metal, but there’s nothing retro or contrived about them. I suppose there’s a bit of Swedish power metal (Hammerfall, old Nocturnal Rites, etc.) in their sound too, but it’s not overbearing. The band also tout their thrash influences, which do bubble to the surface from time to time (such as on the frenetic “Battles Turned Bridges Burned”). Aenimus don’t really sound like anybody else. They don’t chase any musical fad or trend. They just play melodic, mostly mid-paced heavy metal from the heart, with well-written anthemic songs, huge hooks, stirring melodies, powerful guitars and the charismatic, heart-on-sleeve vocals of Anders Sevdin to bring it all home. The lyrics fit the emotional quality of the music perfectly, dealing with universal human struggles of damnation and redemption, darkness and dawn, despair and hope, falling and rising, somehow always being relatable without ever being specific. At 11 songs and 55 minutes, The Final Warning is the kind of album that elicits different favorite songs every single time I hear it. “How Proudly We Stand,” “Alone,” “The Cries of Jonathan Briggs” and the aforementioned “Battles Turned Bridges Burned” have already found particular places of favor in my heart, but the writing and performances are consistently outstanding throughout. For the uninitiated who might be curious about Aenimus, my recommendation would be to go to YouTube and pull up the lyric video for the album’s title track, “The Final Warning.” That song exemplifies what Aenimus are all about: great writing, sterling melodies, powerful vocals. In my book, that song is an instant classic, buoyed by the spine-tingling chorus, “As the sun goes down / Inside the very hearts of us / We see the truth / But none of us believe.”
There’s no big marketing machine propelling Aenimus forward. They’re not doing this for fame or glory. The Final Warning is honest, genuine music delivered from the heart. Maybe it will connect with you, maybe it won’t. But it’s authentic, handmade and real. In the liner notes, Aenimus declare with some pride that “the sounds that you hear are the actual sounds of the instruments being used. Nothing else. No triggering. No replacements.” They also thank those who buy the record, candidly observing, “We worked really hard for this to happen.” I can’t speak for anyone else, but from a completely selfish standpoint, I’m so glad they did. Well done, lads, and thank you.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~