There’s so much going on on The Burial Tree (II), the second full-length release from Californian prog metallers Ana Kefr, that it’s hard to know where to actually begin with this review. Being as rich in depth and complexity as it is, it’s taken a while to fully digest, largely because, in true prog style, The Burial Tree (II) is one of those albums that demands you listen to the whole thing from start to finish in one sitting. There are no three-minute radio-friendly singles to be found here; you can’t just listen to the odd track on your iPod then shuffle to the next prog epic/metal classic/embarrassing guilty pleasure that takes your fancy. This is a single body of work and should be consumed as such.
Boasting elements of death metal, black metal, grindcore, avant-garde, prog rock, and even, just for the hell of it, some standard 4/4 metal (albeit only briefly), the album twists and turns almost constantly, with ne’er a dull moment to be found in its 60-odd minute running time. It plays out like a single musical stream of consciousness that brings to mind a more extreme version of the recent output of Between the Buried and Me, who are arguably the closest you can get to a point of comparison (although for my money at least, The Burial Tree (II) doesn’t quite pack the same punch and isn’t quite as immediate as Colors - but then, not a lot is…)
Much in the same way that Between the Buried and Me casually insert seemingly random musical ideas into each of their songs, so too do Ana Kefr. The album veers from crushing heaviness and intricate guitar work to more melodic sections almost constantly, dropping little musical non sequiturs along the way that take in such disparate genres as vaudeville, jazz, folk and classical. Complementing all the musical pyrotechnics is a vocal performance par excellence from the band, ranging from Randy Blythe-esque rumbles, to death growls, to grindcore pig squeals, to screeching that would put Dani Filth to shame, to crisp clean vocals, often in the space of a single song. I can only assume that several members pull singing duties on the album, such is the variety of styles on display here; not that I’m questioning lead singer Rhiis’s range, but not even the likes of Tommy Rogers, Mikael Åkerfeldt or Devin Townsend (my personal benchmarks when it comes to versatile metal vocalists) can change it up like Ana Kefr manage on this album.
There really is very little to fault the record on. The quality of the musicianship and song-writing is undeniable, and the album as a whole ebbs and flows in all the right places, breaking up the bouts of aggression with quieter moments of contemplative melody. If there’s one concern, it’s over the quality of the production. Giving the band the benefit of the doubt, the advanced copy I’ve been listening to is probably not the finished article, as it’s currently on a par with early Darkthrone records in the shitty production stakes. However, if it is actually meant to sound like this, then all I can say is they’ve done themselves a massive disservice, as such a record demands a much cleaner and expansive sound.
Ana Kefr’s MySpace: www.myspace.com/anakefr