AHNA – Perpetual Warfare (2015) — 12″ EP REVIEW

IMG_2305 copyCrusted, charred death metal mixes with the stench of doom, punctuated with mordant battle cries that scar the psyche. Ahna’s recent incarnation on their Perpetual Warfare EP is a ruthless slog through a massacre. Morbid accounts of a ceaselessly rotting humanity are animated by a vocal onslaught unlike any others who attempt this style.

A release from Choking Hazard Records and Neanderthal Stench this is some of Ahna’s most poisonous material yet. Stream it and read on!

IMG_2284 copyAlways working hard both off and on stage, Ahna’s keenness to craft within a strange realm of black metal, thrash, doom metal, grind and death over the years has made them one of the more intriguing acts in the area.

Their sound has gone through multiple sharp changes having few parallels to other acts, the most recent and gradual revision more primal that all priors. Within this evolution Ahna still sound consistently distinct, unhindered, genuine in their explorations. Perpetual Warfare continues this tradition rawer than ever.

I’ve mentioned before that aside from having strong chemistry, and a good deal of touring under their belt, each of their solo expressions through noise and other projects no doubt contributes to Ahna’s gradual evolution. For instance Anju, as The Nausea, recently performed both a solo set and later collaborated with Mitochondrion at Covenant Fest MMXV.

Anyway as with any revival attempt of old-school sounds, once afflicted with the modifier “blackened/crust/doom” (throw in noise sometimes) it is something that can easily turn out boring, bloated, and even unnecessary. Even if it isn’t any of that a lot of people will turn away upon seeing this combination. However Ahna illustrate how it’s really done.

Without redundancy they have nearly perfected their death formula on Perpetual Warfare drawing out sincere old-school war metal wickedness to cooperate with their doom-violence heritage.

There’s another split release I haven’t reviewed yet (their split with G.O.D.) which is quite close to Perpetual Warfare’s strength, but while the material there through the Contorture split and specifically Cetascan split was great, it’s this new EP that’s kicking my ass the hardest since maybe Empire. It’s terribly addicting. That time on tour playing this stuff must have been fun and no doubt hardened their new approach.

IMG_2295 copyThere are six tracks in all, five for this EP specifically and the sixth one demo track from an upcoming LP titled Crimson Dawn which I now can’t wait to hear. Lyrical themes remain consistent with their ethos in the past. The perspective bleak, the tone threatening.

These words are smashed out on paper crudely and bluntly just as some of the concepts and acts depicted. Once screamed in a way Anju only can, the tone is both a old-school familiarity and distinctly hellish, even the random shouts and shit. It’s again a stand out on the record all accomplished while drumming. Her vocals have of course always been a strong point across their discography, and on this EP she’s absolutely infernal.

It must be the equally barbarous material which is some of their stronger shit hands down. She kills it both in the caustic screams and the blackened thrash attack on the drums. Creative within a black vortex, tight, and between the blasting and thrashing the doom peaks in (“Devastation” at the end and the title track on the outset, and end), utterly destroying both live and on record.

Graham’s writing  is stronger here, with solos generally carrying real weight in the atmosphere  instead of ending up filler; without overdoing it on the wild aspect. Again his lower, feral roars and growls compliment Anju’s while at other times on the record giving here some time to blast and crash; a couple of the last tracks where he fills the roll himself competently serve as a good example.

IMG_2297 copyLet’s get to the tracks. “No One Survives” burns a path at a crusty gallop for a time before the vocals are triggered. Anju’s cadence carrying the words stand out here, the pace and passion cuts clear through the burning distortion, tearing at your mind. Reverb soaked solo drones and fades before the initial riff sets off and again Anju comes back in full force.

“Pull The Trigger” is a highlight. The gruesome opening guitar section and Anju’s vocals hit a sweet spot as well. All the “die!/lies!” that is repeated throughout are fucking vicious over solos, and with the riffs sloshing around all dirty and evil it’s just fantastic.

After the initial thrash there’s this slow, deformed doom riff it’s a great touch between the battering this song is composed of. Breaks in the blast before a two layered wild solos emerge, ending on a deformed tremolo riff. In context of the lyrics the panicked pace and mounting tension are aspects that really grab hold on the rest of the record too.

The song eats itself after the solo and screams become their most threatening right at the close. An excellent track.

IMG_2298 copyThe longest song on the record, “Cadaver” sets a sinister groove from its beginning, picking up into a storm once the vocals cut the groove down, drums bursting forth. Anju and Graham trade-off every other section.

The death serenade breaks into an anxious climb under a solo at one point and then returns to a sullen lumber, slowing into a foreboding sustain; Anju drawing up the “Raining Blood” percussion as the feedback wavers. You can hear the distant wails throughout the background but it’s only at the end where it enters this hallowed drift.

“Devastation” pushes onward at a thrashy gallop. Graham takes the lead on vocals, the riffs become more jumpy while an extra layer of wailing notes hides in the background. A sudden and uneasy descent brings the song to a slow for a moment, before ratcheting back up for the end.

As mentioned “Perpetual Warfare” has a few bright moments between rusted death marches, blasting and pulverizing, and gets menacing towards the end as those doom roots seep in. Another favorite of mine on the EP.

Lots of cymbals at first as a wriggling riff writhes, Graham again taking center on vocals, and it takes of into a savage tremolo section. Again the ever-present wails behind it all. In the final moment a crusher of a riff gets thrown around like a boulder, murky as fuck; percussion darkening as the song unwinds.

“In Death’s Grip” is the demo for their next LP and outside of sounding a little thinner in terms of production the approach carries on into a slightly more cavernous death frenzy. Another track where Anju assumes mainly drum duties and Graham leads. I absolutely want to hear more.

IMG_2299 copyThe art is predictably awesome as on all Ahna’s records. A great amount of care shows, the detail on the lettering/font and the imagery is appreciated. Black and white, with a dual insert/sleeve with deathly cover art and lyrics.

In terms of the actual record I don’t recall a prior Ahna release being on colored vinyl but this one is black white grey marble splatter which came out quite nice.

Primal, crusty death that needs more attention. Highly recommended. Go get it from your local punk/metal distro or check out either Choking Hazard Records in Montreal or Neanderthal Stench if you’re in Europe. Perpetual Warfare is up for sale and for free download and stream on their bandcamp page as well.

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