Vintage, yet modern – a review of Anzillu’s “Ex-Nihilo”

Author Silvia Tortiglione - 3.5.2023

Brevity is a virtue not to be underestimated. With less than forty minutes of listening time, Anzillu brings home a well-packaged work – thanks in part to Nino Laurenne (Amorphis, Wintersun, Ensiferum) on mixing. “Ex-Nihilo” is an energetic opus with some pleasant vintage overtones, opening a more than promising debut.

Founded in 2019 by guitarist Jesse Kämäräinen, Anzillu overtures with an old-school thrash tone. “Needles (On My Nerves)” is an open track that places flashing drums at its center and recalls the more bombastic areas of early Slayer. “Mental Graveyard”, one of the best tracks on the album, follows, thinning out the speed of the riffs to a death metal setting; similarly, the album’s third track, “Trumpets of War” slips into what I might call “doom ‘n brutal” zones. Teemu Kemppainen shows off the best nuances of his voice here, which manages to keep up with a truly complex score, with guitar virtuosity sparkling in the second half of the track’s total length.

Now, let’s try putting together Megadeth, Testament, and Sepultura from their first steps. We thus get the triptych “The Cleansing Flame”, “Discordia”, and “Dauntless“. Surely, we are in a safe harbor of excellent technical performance that can easily satisfy listeners. The weak point: the safe zone is not slaughtered. Anzillu seems, in the middle stages of the album, to stay close to the great examples of the past, without forcing the hand with excessive experimentation.

“Ex-Nihilo” is made of the same stuff as nostalgia. This is not a flaw, but an incredible reworking of metal history. A vintage LP, but one that does not lapse into gratuitous and cloying tributes. “Splinter In The Minds Eye” and “Volture” increase the thrust of the strings, aiming for a clean gallop, with minimal dark inflections.

Nomen Omen – the name is an omen, and indeed the title track closes the work. “Ex-Nihilo” – literally, from nowhere, from a state of existential void, in Latin, anticipates what I believe will be the band’s future. We begin to see some straining of the thrash and death canon. This is a fun track to listen to, very varied, and American-sounding, setting aside the old-fashioned side to mix it up. Background voices close in on scratchy incidences and riffs, and the drums offer darkness worthy of the lyrics. In the finale, the tension breaks masterfully, with a madness of references, a true puzzle of cadences and intervals.

In conclusion, Anzillu arrives on the scene from a time machine. Everything we loved in the 80s is presented with “Ex-Nihilo” in a refreshed guise that does not particularly dare but certainly announces the maturity of a growing styleme.