The first thing that comes to mind when I’m introduced to a new black metal band is “Dear Satan, I hope there’s actually something in here that will stand out.” Despite being an underground movement, there is clearly no shortage of “extreme” metal acts. Thankfully though, it’s also no secret that the scene constantly pushes boundaries and encourages all forms of raw experimentation. This is what aspiring Canadian black-metal project, The Animal Warfare Act‘, headed by rookie Manus “CuddleBunny” Hopkins and joined by his brother Cormac on drums, claim to provide with their first album. The Doomsday Tapes was released on September 18th as an independent release, a feat that any underground music go-er can appreciate. As I sink into the driver’s seat of my car, my ears waiting to be sonically annihilated, I can’t help but wonder “What does a 21-year-old Yukon native, albeit familiar with the local and international scenes, really have to offer?”
The answer is: a respectable collection of sinister grooves and fierce growls, overshadowed by a less-than-stellar production quality. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to argue that “lofi” and DIY are synonymous with black metal, but a lack of experience and some amateur tone shaping will stand out to even the casual metalhead. As the band claims this release to be their first official “LP” album while citing influences such as heavyweights Darkthrone and Behemoth, I can’t help but hold the “lofi sound” to a certain standard. It’s somewhere between too sterile to be considered niche, yet too lacking of a mix to properly hold up in a professional setting. Despite a slight absence of harshness and energy in the overall sound, the musicianship of the Hopkins brothers form a cohesive force that is sure to leave an impression.
Tracks one through four are somewhat homogeneous, but as a fan of anything “stoner-esque”, the heavy, mid-tempo grooves offered a much appreciated throwback to 70s proto-metal. Certain riffs from tracks such as “Closer to the End-Times” and “Con Fuoco” even gave me strong acid-rock vibes, and I certainly have no issues in that department. Once the album’s single, “Hecate’s Trance” rolls in, it is immediately obvious that it is the standout track for this release. I feel like it also kickstarts the second half of the album, showcasing a more nuanced and interesting take on the band’s interpretation of extreme metal. On the other hand, while the titles and styles of the songs are quite on theme with the “Doomsday” imagery, the soft 80s synths and the carnival music interludes seemed to serve another, unknown purpose that at times detracted from the flow of heavy riffage.
My main drawback with this release is a lack of harsh and fast energy that would have given a much needed break from the slower grooves. I also wished that the “doomier” sections invoked more feelings of an evil, eerie atmosphere that Scandinavian pioneers fused so seamlessly with the black metal sound. These shortcomings didn’t stop me from enjoying the album though, and, all in all, I commend CuddleBunny for a solid, enjoyable blackened doom effort. In time, with some serious polishing, The Animal Warfare Project can surely make a name for themselves in the Canadian underground.
Written by Davide Spinato
*Edited by Dominic Abate