Books, covers, judgements and all that nonsense; you know what to do, what not to do, and yet it’s still almost certain that the cover artwork for Tenue‘s Anábasis elicited exactly zero dread from you at first glance. One could hardly be blamed for approaching the Spanish trio’s 2018 debut with one’s guard down; its avian depiction of fragile vulnerability, set against such a decidedly gentle cerulean hue, hardly says “This album screams!” A certain tenderness is promised, seemingly… but it’s absolute bird shit. Anábasis wants to kill you, and if you approach it with your guard down, it just might succeed.
It’s at least slightly possible that the previously purported lethality of Anábasis is mere hyperbole, but make no mistake: this thing is incredibly fucking heavy, all the same. Little birds be damned, Converge seem to be Tenue’s spirit animal. For just over a half-hour, these Spaniards claw their way through a cacophony of post-hardcore and furious neocrust, offering precious little sonic respite and absolutely no sympathy along the way. Jagged guitar lines carve furious melodies into a wall of percussion, seamlessly coexisting in discordant harmony with the constant paroxysms of sheer violence which comprise the album’s vocal performance. Sporadic moments of comparative calm, such as the simmering sludge of the album’s opening notes, serve only to heighten the oncoming storms of their respective tracks. Every song is a sequence of explosions, as delicately inviting as a spring day in Hell.
Tenue’s tunes sound like sheer wrath, but just who are these Spaniards angry with? In a word: you. In a few more words: the forces which shape humanity, circa now. Presented in three languages on the band’s Bandcamp page, the lyrics of Anábasis read like a black-hooded indictment of humanity being punctuated against a thousand swinging guillotines. Alternating between bleak reflection and vitriolic opprobrium, it’s clear that Tenue’s judgment of the human condition is one of damnation – albeit not altogether without hope. For every punch not pulled in the prosaic ponderings of particularly pessimistic pieces like ‘Mythos,’ (“Daughters of our parents’ misery, we are used to set up our relationships with blows. The need to be better than everyone else makes us lose value at every gesture.”) a tenuous threat of optimism graces the horizon: “We are more valuable than what we produce.” ‘Am-Ar’ wields both such wordly weapons equally, perfectly capturing Anábasis’ lyrical breadth and poignantly releasing it with the album’s last breath.
If, somehow, the preceding exercise in pretentious verbosity hasn’t compelled you to rush to Tenue’s Bandcamp page just as quickly as you metaphorically can, allow me to succinctly sweeten the pot with just three monosyllabic words: “Name Your Price.” What do you have to lose? Humanity continues to spiral while this buried treasure continues to languish in obscurity, it’s probably too late to save our species from itself, but there’s still time to save your library.
Words: Drew Parent