Ænigmatum is a four-piece from the bizarro hub of the world, Portland, Oregon; comprised of Brian Rush on bass, Pierce Williams on drums, Eli Lundgren on guitar, and Kelly McLaughlin on guitar and vocals. Active since 2017, releasing a demo “Indoctrination of Mourning” only last year, 2019 brings us their self-titled debut album from Chaos Records (CD), Headsplit Records (cassette), and self-released (digital). This release is 34 minutes packed with memorable riffs, quick-fire drums, and howling vocals; not content with just being a new player in a crowded field, this group is intending to absolutely upend your favorites list.
The low-end begins with the bass from Brian Rush, which is imbued with plenty of personality; instead of the standard, bass being the musical equivalent to wallpaper, more care and thought is put into the melodies carried out here. Pierce Williams on drums spins some dizzying fills in between impressive percussion holding the music together; nicely varied use of the full kit, and consistently creative beats along the steadier portions of the songs. Kelly McLaughlin provides vocals for this beast, hair-raising howls and gritty growls burst past the musical line to haunt your mind with his incantations.
Kelly McLaughlin and Eli Lundgren’s collective shredding is the reason for many comparisons I’d come across to The Chasm, and damn is it fitting. The guitars bounce swiftly from compelling rhythm sections to soaring leads that are grandiose and epic; leaning toward the progressive, the guitars manage to easily avoid the saccharine trappings, but beyond that they are actually interesting. Kelly and Eli also aren’t afraid of the murky and dirty parts of Death Metal; including hints and heavier mixes of Black Metal along the way, the guitars delve into the filth, grounding the more extravagant flourishes in grime.
Ænigmatum surprised me with this release; it is beyond what I expected, and it has that certain factor that makes near endless repeats enjoyable. If you’re into any form of Death Metal this is an album you should check out, as I can’t imagine anyone not finding something to like. This would be an excellent bridge for fans of filthy Death Metal to meet with the fans of Progressive Death Metal; they may return to scowling at each other from across the venue after Ænigmatum finish playing, but for a brief, beautiful moment, they will have come together. (Ethan)