Bay Area metal bands conjure up a certain image. Bands like Death Angel and more recently Fallujah come to mind. What I heard of Aenimus’s second album release “Dreamcatcher” is more akin to Fallujah in its technicality and progressive edge.

Death metal at its base, this album is full of surprises. Where “Eternal” tends to the purer end of this genre, the grunts and growls are balanced out with a clean chorus, and a quiet passage mid-stream. An extravagant guitar solo finishes the job off. This is nothing compared to the opener “Before the Eons”. Twisting and turning, it too suggests vibrant and extreme death metal. A lot is packed into this four and a half minute track. A brief acoustic break catches us off our guard, and in the midst of this extreme death metal, an epic melody strikes up as a technical guitar line takes us to further heights. A little sophistication never goes amiss, and as the drum patters, there’s a jazzy feel. Suddenly death metal becomes accessible as “Before the Eons” reaches further epic heights.

“The Ritual” starts in familiar extreme deathly fashion. The pattern is familiar, with breaks for progressive and technical flamboyance. Aenimus now how to instill drama as this technical wonderland unfolds. “The Ritual” bizarrely has a kind of “secret track” with a symphonic end – strange and frankly pointless. “My Becoming” is proof of how well the sound is managed on this album. As well as the dual growls, the clean chorus has a hardcore element to it. The Latino-jazz section on “The Triad” is a nice interlude on another pungent display of technical extremity. It was nice to hear the more measured start of “Between Iron and Silver”. But it’s not for long, as the colourful drum pattern, a feature of this album, is overtaken by the return to death metal patterns. The high-end vocal doesn’t work. It took me a while to get into this song, and I’m not sure I have yet. The final symphonic cascade finished me off. It’s a nice, melancholic piece, but I couldn’t say where it fits into the rest of it. Normal roaring is resumed with “The Overlook” and “Caretaker”, save the statutory technical intermissions. “Caretaker” is pretty powerful stuff but haven’t I heard it before? And they did it again – cutting it short for a little classical piece. Why, why, why? I didn’t like that but I did like the lush interlude, which falls into the next song “Second Sight”, which follows. The sign I’d got the measure of this album was the fact that I felt “Day Zero” didn’t live up to its title and whilst powerful, it didn’t explode or do anything to excite me. This is the last of the action as it were, as the final track “Dreamcatcher” is a languid semi-symphonic instrumental. If this album had been about dreams, then this fact passed me by. In fact the theme of the album is horror, and sees its influence in such films as The Shining and the Dead Zone. That may account for the interludes, which weren’t so dramatic, but this all passed me by and if I hadn’t read this information, I wouldn’t have guessed. This basically is a technical metal album.

“Dreamcatcher” is a strong, and at times, dynamic album. “Before the Eons” is simply outstanding. Yet as a whole I found this almost a Fallujah mark 2, and whilst it’s always mobile and technically adept, it doesn’t burst out with imagination and there’s even an air of disjointed awkwardness about the way some of these songs are constructed.

(6/10 Andrew Doherty)