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Hoarfrost - Anima Mundi (2016) - Review

Band: Hoarfrost
Album title: Anima Mundi
Release date: 17 August 2016
Label: Reverse Alignment

01. Ages Of Gaia
02. Perception Primordial
03. Mimesis
04. Refracted In Illusion
05. In Hopeless Mazes
06. Medeaeternum

Anima Mundi is an unique experience. Hoarfrost have taken their previous sounds and increased the intensity in every way. Anima Mundi is the first album from Hoarfrost in over five years. Hoarfrost released their first two albums, Puppets Of The Divine Coroner and Ground Zero, as well as a split with Inner Vision Laboratory through Zoharum. They brought a unique combination of dark ambient, industrial noise, and operatic vocals. Now they return with Anima Mundi, their first release on Reverse Alignment.

Anima Mundi has been a long time in the making. Hoarfrost hit a brick wall several years back, induced by the death of their dear friend Amelia, who suddenly passed on. Amelia had been responsible for the album art on most of the Hoarfrost releases. Hoarfrost took some time to mourn and rebound. With the help of some special guest collaborators, they brought the project back into focus. Now they have dedicated Anima Mundi to their friend Amelia.

Hoarfrost had previously been known for the unique combination of bleak apocalyptic soundscapes, which barely touched the realms of musicality, and the female vocals, which added a truly unique touch. Their full length debut, Ground Zero, was a wrenching experience, evoking the moods and sounds of a massive metropolitan disaster. On Puppets Of The Divine Coroner, Hoarfrost largely followed the framework of Ground Zero. Both albums attracted attention and praise from plenty of fans and reviewers across the world.

Anima Mundi is quite an unusual album. The mood is set in a masterful way. Building off all the sounds Hoarfrost previously used, but moving much further into uncharted territories. Anima Mundi presents a world which appears to be dying or dead. But the difference this time is that we are witnessing this through the lens of the anima mundi, the world spirit, the devastatingly beautiful yet vicious Mother Earth. Mother Earth shows us two vastly different faces. Stare into the northern sky, watching the Aurora Borealis, amaze in the beauty, but remember there are violent earthquakes which rip through California, tsunamis obliterate Japanese shorelines, the world is stronger than humanity, she gives and takes life with no shame or regret.

The talents of several guest musicians not only spice up this release, but they transform it into something totally different from the previous Hoarfrost outings. Anima Mundi is significantly more musical, in every way from the operatic female vocals to the somber cello arrangements. Hoarfrost recruited the talents of several guest musicians, including: Valdi Rzeszut from Ratatam, whose guitar parts are featured on tracks "Refracted In Illusion" and "In Hopeless Mazes", as well as Katarzyna Bromirska from Percival Schuttenbach, whose cello can be heard throughout the entire album. These cello parts give the album an even flow and hold the listener within the musical context easily, without going off into long periods of minimal soundscape. While the guitars can be considered part of the more chaotic aspects of the album.

Hoarfrost took a real gamble on this release, relying on the open-minded nature of the majority of fans who listen to these dark ambient/industrial genres. Anima Mundi brilliantly encapsulates the dichotomy between the peaceful and chaotic forces present on Earth. These concepts are personified through two strong females, Gaia and Medeae. Gaia, the goddess, the mother Earth, can be best represented in the beautiful cello arrangements, but also in the rumbling noises found throughout the album. Whereas we can hear Medeae's presence most explicitly through some of the more sinister sounding vocal sections. In fact, the vocals really give us the best understanding of the shifts in emotions presented on Anima Mundi. Sometimes the vocals are beautiful, well timed operatic sections, while on other tracks they become purposely disjointed, at times chaotic. On "Medeaeternum" the vocals become downright vicious, moving effortlessly between this operatic sound and violently passionate screams of rage.

Anima Mundi is sure to be a challenging release for many listeners, but that shouldn't stop anyone from giving it a listen. There is a little something here for all sorts of musical tastes: death industrial, power electronics, operatic vocals, dark ambient soundscapes, classical cellos. The experimental nature of this release, steeped in an obvious darkness is reminiscent of something we would hear on some Cold Meat Industry release. I would highly recommend this to listeners who love to hear musicians step outside the normality of so much modern music. There is little here that could be directly compared to anything else out there. Hoarfrost have presented their most unique work to date. While it won't be for every one, those who enjoy Anima Mundi are likely to fall in love with it.

Written by: Michael
Rating: 8/10