Anorak Is France’s Best Kept Secret
Imagine if a supergroup was formed featuring members of Botch, Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan with Scott Angelacos from Bloodlet on vocals. You’d probably have high expectations for such a prestigious group of individuals playing together and eagerly await some recorded output to be released. Well the bad news is that group does not exist. The good news is that four young gentleman from Amiens, France fit that description and they have three albums under their belt. Anorak may be one of the best bands you haven’t heard, and it’s a shame more people don’t know about them. Let’s change that, shall we?
For those unfamiliar, which I’m assuming is the majority of you, Anorak refer to themselves as a grind n’ roll outfit, but that description is selling them short. Bands such as Call of The Void and Corrupt Moral Altar embody the grind n’ roll description, but Anorak goes well beyond that. They play a genre-bending style of chaotic hardcore that tactfully blends in punk, noise, grind, and sludge elements. The supergroup description mentioned above only scratches the surface of what they sound like, as those groups serve as more of a legitimate influence rather than a direct comparison.
Anorak does three things really well that make for an enjoyable listening experience. First, their recordings are a pleasure to my ears. All the guitars, bass, and drums sound like they were recorded in an actual recording studio where all the instruments sound big as opposed to compressed. Second, all the players are very proficient at their instruments. Third, and most importantly, their songwriting is what ties the whole package together. In a sense they follow your basic song structure in many of their songs – intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, mid section, verse, chorus, ending. That may sound boring, but listening to it is an entirely different animal as they segue between each section with variations on the main components of their songs. The song “Human Sponge Story” from their first album, My Own Haze exemplifies this. Shortly after the bass intro, Anorak begins building up to the song’s main riff by coloring it with guitar and drum accents. From there, the guitar takes center stage with a Botch-inspired lead guitar part before the whole band comes in with guns blazing and begins working you over. The Botch inspired lead keeps popping up and starts to become infectious, popping up again towards the middle and fading out. This gives you the sense that the song has concluded, leaving you saying, “bring that shit in one more time please!” No worries, your wish has been granted, as they do just that and close out the piece. Enough of me blabbing about it. Check it out below and hear it for yourself.
For Anorak’s most recent album, Go Up In Smoke, they filmed some of their recording sessions and made a play through type video for the songs “Deserve Your Meat” and “Backlach”. Again you’ll find that they are more or less sticking to their formula of building a song around the main riffs and supplying variations and transitions through each composition. “Deserve Your Meat” starts off with a Converge/Botch type opening riff before giving way to blast beats and working it’s way to an up-tempo variation on the opening riff. For “Backlach”, the video switches to a 4 cam format so you can watch each member recording the song. While there are stronger songs on Go Up In Smoke, this one is by no means boring or uninteresting as Anorak do not have any filler or subpar songs on any of their albums.
Let me apologize in advance for going through Anorak’s discography in Quentin Tarrantino fashion (out of order that is). Sick was my first exposure to the band and it blew me away so I figured I’d warm up with their first and third albums before touching on this one. The opening track from that album, “Long Black Half Hair” is the definition of a banger. Much like on “Human Sponge Story” above, Anorak opens the album with an impressive bass line and is joined momentarily by the rest of the band as they break into a choppy rhythm that would be found on earlier Dillinger Escape Plan albums. And as they do so well, Anorak weaves in and out of their opening riff, surrounding it with blast beats and more Botch influenced guitar nuances to keep your attention. I continue to marvel at how these guys know exactly when to switch to the next part and work their way back to the opening riff that the song is built around. Check out “Long Half Black Hair” below for another crash course in Anorak.
Songs longer than 4 minutes are usually a challenge for me. We’ve had discussions on length of songs on this very site. So while my preferences lean towards a shorter song length, every now and then one of those longer jams grabs my attention. “Covered With Mud”, also from Sick, is a little over 7 minutes long, but every nook and cranny of this song leads up to a dirge-like guitar interlude at the 5 minute mark that serves to bring the song to its climax. As you’ve noticed by now, Anorak sticks to the formula of building upon their opening riff by twisting and turning it throughout the song while sprinkling in the fine details to pull the whole thing together. The songwriting here is impressive because it keeps you engaged; the length of the song is not a deterrent. It’s a testament to strong, powerful riffs and thoughtful songwriting. “Crowded Sunny Streets” is another song from Sick that succeeds in keeping your interest in excess of 7 minutes, so if “Covered With Mud” below grabs you, so will this one.
Go Up In Smoke was released in 2013, but Anorak recently popped up to record a song for a compilation. From what I gather, it appears on a compilation called Moustache Bar, and the song below bears the same name. This video is just from a drum cam, but if you like watching good drummers lay the smack down on a kit, you’ll see this man has got skills. Anorak shines again with the shortest song they’ve written at almost a minute long. They switch back and forth between hardcore and grind over their trademark style of riffing before finishing you off with a groove laden breakdown at the end.
Anorak’s entire catalog is available on Bandcamp for the very generous “name your price” fee. Stab here to stream/purchase their releases and then head over to their Facebook page and show em’ some love. Maybe somewhere down the road, a U.S. tour will happen. If that ever goes down, I’ll be first in line should they hit my area. I noticed that Faith No More has thrown these guys a like on Facebook as well. I’d take that as high praise right there.