author Sam Doherty
I do so love to be educated! Reading the press release for Anthenora, I discovered that the name comes from Dante's Inferno (ok I never read it) and refers to a frozen lake in hell. That was enough education for one day, especially in the exam season, so I hurriedly got on with the business of listening to the album.
Anthenora started out as a group of friends playing together in 1990, who were heavily influenced by Iron Maiden, Saxon and Judas Priest. Also, according to the PR by Helloween, but I'm not so sure that that influence shows so much. For a while, they existed as "the best Italian Maiden cover band", but branched out to start writing their own
material. Soul Grinder is their second full-length release. They've been slightly slow starters, not producing any songs of their own until 2002, but this has been time well spent perfecting their craft.
Given the build up so far, you won't be too surprised to find that they have a very familiar NWOBHM sound with a definite leaning towards Maiden/Saxon. The biggest problem is that, being Italian (from Turin, as it happens) some of their vocals are a little mangled, shrouded in incomprehensibility even. I'd been quite happily listening to this for a week or so before I realised that the title track was in fact called "Soulgrinder" rather than "Sullkrinda". Not a big problem, but it's just a bit niggly, especially when the version that sticks in your head is the recorded one. Other than that, the vocals are very good, strong and clean much in the manner of Bruce had he only been brought up in Italy. I can't fault the guitars either, exactly what you would expect from the genre, very competent, great solos and above all, no widdling.
Some of the tracks are incredibly strong: the aforementioned "Soulgrinder" amongst them give full rein to Luigi Bonansea's undoubted abilities as vocalist with some delightfully placed guitar work and a tremendously powerful drum performance. In fact, I think that's the one thing that puts this release well up my list of things I've enjoyed reviewing, the performance of the band as a band, rather than as a disparate group of individuals. It's quite wrong to single out any single aspect of this performance on the better tracks of this album, they are quite simply a perfect whole. Which is quite an impressive state to have reached on your second full-length release. That's not to say that the album is unmitigated perfection, there are a few tracks which aren't quite so strong, but this is a band who obviously love what they're doing, and know what they want to do with their talents. Basically what I'm saying is, if you like good old-fashioned metal (and if you don't what's wrong with you?) you'll recognise and love this.