Long Branch Records / SPV

Annisokay – Enigmatic Smile (Album Review)


Hailing from Halle, Germany are a band by the name of Annisokay. Dubbed a Metal-Post-Hardcore act, they were founded in 2007 by producer, video director, and guitarist/ clean vocalist Christoph Wieczorek. Beside co-founder and bassist Norbert Rose the lineup is completed by the harsh vocalist Dave Grunewald, guitarist Philipp Ketzschma,  and drummer Daniel Herrmann. Interestingly enough, the strange band name arose from a discussion in question of Michael Jackson’s lyrics of the 1987 classic song “Smooth Criminal,” wherein a girl called Annie was attacked. To keep a long story short, the five musicians unified on the common denominator, that Anni is ok (to pronounce the band name) and subsequently released two demos and finally their first, self-financed EP You, Always in 2010. Climbing Metal album charts on Amazon, as well as iTunes, with their full-length debut album in 2012 entitled The Lucid Dream(er) Annisokay found themselves to be a hot topic in the genre.

Before entering Metro 37 Studios in Michigan to record a new EP with Joey Sturgis, the band’s success was virtually assured when the German label SPV Records signed the five-piece worldwide. The Lucid Dream(er) was re-released with three brand new songs in 2014 to bring the album to a bigger audience and to promote it with new business partners, management and a booking agency to back them on a first German headlining tour. Beside appearances on German festivals like Summer Breeze, Annisokay snatched the opening slots for Eskimo Callboy and latest for Callejon in the beginning of 2015, after expanding the planned EP into the now released second full-length album, entitled Enigmatic Smile.  Behind the title, Annisokay again follow the story, which was picked up by Michael Jackson years ago. It enters into the questions behind the face of the practice-puppet ‘Annie’ that is used by billions of people to learn first-aid-methods. Also well-known as the unknown drowned girl out of France’s Seine river, Annie became a synonym for a brokenhearted girl, full of grief and sadness despite her peaceful facial expression. With that said, these are the best conditions for a Metalcore act to unite all the aforementioned emotions, which are set to music on the new album Enigmatic Smile.

With this record Annisokay offer eleven tracks full of uncompromising brutality and melodic despair. Cross-references to acts like Bring me the Horizon or Asking Alexandria are of course no stretch, and the choice of the producer Sturgis haul up the band onto the same level playing field as these veteran acts. This is felt from the first track “Carry Me Away,” which possess a mix of atmospheric melodic guitars in the backdrop as the vocals of Wieczorek’s and Grunewald combine for a blend of rough and smooth emotions. The cut “Naked City” is slightly heavier with a thick groove to begin, before giving way to a very open-sounding verse where the guitars echo in the background beautifully behind the chaos.

Throughout the whole album the alternating dual voices of Wieczorek and Grunewald’s growls keep the scale balanced, while the rhythm and guitar section are weaving a very tight sound-carpet. On the track “Snowblind” one could even hear influence from the likes of Kataonia (guitar-wise) and Linkin Park (vocal-wise). The neck breaking thunderstorm ‘Panic Attack’ showcases a rougher side of Annisokay, but still has enough atmosphere to please fans of melody. The really high-flyer with the mass compatible ear-worm character is ‘Wolves in the Walls’ with its female vocal-loop-hook-line, that will surely stay in the listener’s mind for hours. Complimented by an eerie overall feel, the track is a complete emotional roller coaster from beginning to end.

Enthralling the listener at every turn, big melodies are brought forth on songs like “Fragile Line” before a slower tempo comes for ‘Traveler.” Like the latter song’s title implies, the lyrics speak of jogging painful memories of regrets. Showing they are not a one-dimensional band, Annisokay traverse the calmer ballad-like waters of “Life Cycles” with some discreet drum-loops and light electronics as Wieczorek’s voice is layered in a magnificently warm and affectionate fashion. Again, perhaps the most striking aspect of the song is the words where Wieczorek speaks of the loss we all face and harsh truth that nothing lasts forever. Picking the speed right back up is “Fame,” as the crunching guitars take back over and Grunewald attacks the listener’s ears with potent and aggressive bellows.

As the album winds down, “New Autumn Light” further showcases the work of a highly mature band, knowing when to let moments in a song breathe as the guitar work of Ketzschma and Wieczorek is a perfect storm of brutality and delicate notes. This comes directly before the finale with “What Is Left,” where the band even find a way to mix in a bit of a Punk feel amidst their broad sound that is miles above the average Metalcore act. The brighter inflections of the song are a perfect way to end the fittingly titled Enigmatic Smile. 

Overall, Enigmatic Smile is an outstanding piece of modern heavy music. The compelling lyrical concept about real human emotion and the wonderful, proper high-grade album artwork contribute to the extraordinary overall picture that Wieczorek and his bandmates have created. Fans who are searching for new cannon fodder between Bring Me The Horizon or other fresh acts such as While She Sleeps, have to add Enigmatic Smile to their collection. It will not be long before Annisokay are headlining shows in North America. Also, Michael Jackson fans can put their mind at rest: Annie is very ok. First aid course passed and attempts at resuscitation should not be necessary. CrypticRock gives Enigmatic Smile 5 out of 5 stars.

Long Branch Records / SPV

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