annisokay – “Arms”

Exam season is approaching, so I’m once again spending my days trying to get a grasp of microeconomics. How does this relate to this review, you might ask? Well, I’ve been currently engaging myself in consumer theory and realized that even though we only discuss perfectly rational preference relations in theory, preferences in real life usually are anything but rational. Today, I will be discussing a new release by a band I have been a fan of for years now, and listening to their music brings me great joy (or utility, as we economists like to say). There is no rational reason why I like this band so much and even prefer it over other bands. It’s mostly emotional attachment and my irrational preference for high voices and cheesy, wistful melodies.
Music in general really is a lot about personal preference. My job when writing reviews, though, is to analyse albums – not to drool over my favorite bands. I tried my best to analyse annisokay’s new album in a manner that is detailed enough without making me hate it.

To be fair, I lied a tiny bit when I stated that there are no rational reasons to like annisokay. Of course there are: Their music is energetic, dynamic, highly melodic and their songs work on their own as well as their albums as a whole sound cohesive and well-structured. So it is no surprise that “Arms” is not only a phenomenal album from my very own individual point of view, but also from a more objective, music critic perspective. Long-time fans will be pleased to hear an exceptionally strong and refined version of annisokay on “Arms”. No song resembles another track they ever released, but all songs have the characteristics of a great annisokay hit, as well as some surprises here and there.

So what are the most outstanding aspects of “Arms”? First of all, “Arms” displays the musicians’ skills in a remarkable manner. I particularly enjoy the authentic drumming by drummer Nico and of course the vocals. Screamer Dave sounds brutal as always, and singer Christoph is at his strongest on this album. His vocals have evolved from being “just” angelic to being strong and edgy when appropriate. It’s the kind of vocals that make any metalcore fan’s heart leap for joy and as well as the kind that could disarm (pun not intended!) the most brutal metalhead. There is absolutely no part on this record in which Christoph doesn’t shine with his vocals, but my personal favorites would be “Good Stories”, “Sea Of Trees” and “Locked Out, Locked In”.
Secondly, 80s and 90s inspired electronic elements in general have always been an important part of annisokay’s music, and they sound particularly polished on “Arms”, both as integral parts of the melody, but also in a more subtle manner as an element to create dimension.
On the same note, the melodies sound equally fresh and familiar as well as wistful and energizing at the same time – a mix that will never get old. The riffs also sound marvelously heavy and crushing, particularly in “Humanophobia” and “Coma Blue”.
Finally, “Arms” shows like no record before that annisokay write songs detachedly from many rules of hardcore and metalcore – the vocalists’ parts alternate constantly most of the time, dynamics are superior to typical song structures and the guys aren’t afraid of experimenting with classical elements like piano and violin (which have been recorded live) and even hip-hop, all incorporated in their unique sound: just listen to the beautiful song “Innocence Was Here” and the rhythmic and tense track “Private Paradise”.

Naming favorites is a real challenge. However, my excitement for “Coma Blue” and “Unaware” has drastically faded due to my abusive consumption of respective tracks ever since their release (I valued present consumption more than future consumption – again, not something a rational consumer would do). In terms of innovation, I would say that “Private Paradise” is a true highlight of the album, as well as the socio-critical (gun control-related) song “Fully Automatic”. Last but not least, “Escalators” and “Sea Of Trees” are lovely, gently powerful tracks with massive sing-along choruses. I envision all of these songs (and more) as killer live tracks.

Is there even anything negative to point out? Yes, of course there is. The track “End Of The World” probably would have been better off as a true ballad – I’m missing a slower ballad on this album, anyways (with “Good Stories” being the closest to that, at least tempo-wise). It lacks the power all other tracks on “Arms” have, which is too bad. Additionally, the lyrics are sometimes too repetitive for my taste, namely on tracks like “Sea Of Trees” or “Fully Automatic”, where the vocalists repeat each others’ lyrics. This issue is not new, but important to address.

My heart tells me that this album is perfect, but my reviewer brain won’t tolerate this kind of emotional attachment to a band. It can’t, however, deny that “Arms” is one hell of a great album that will surely help me get through the rest of my exams.

Release date: August 17, 2018

Rating: outstanding (4)

Line-up:
Dave Grunewald – screams
Christoph Wieczorek – clean vocals/guitar
Philipp Kretzschmar – guitar
Norbert Kayo – bass
Nico Vaeen – drums

Tracks:
01. Coma Blue
02. Unaware
03. Good Stories
04. Fully Automatic
05. Sea Of Trees
06. Innocence Was Here
07. Humanophobia
08. End Of The World
09. Escalators
10. Private Paradise
11. One Second
12. Locked Out, Locked In

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