It’s mildly surprising that not a lot of bands have tried to recreate the sound of 2008-2011 era progressive metalcore, also known as “Sumeriancore” for the label that came to define the sound. Sure, many have iterated on the sound and developed their own on top, but there haven’t been a lot of proper throwbacks. It seems oddly fitting for Aenimus to be the band to do it, as their sophomore album Dreamcatcher is their first since 2013. Not only does Dreamcatcher bring the beat of the genre back to life, it also exudes six years’ worth of creativity as well, and is a very satisfying return to a genre that’s missed sorely by many.
What is Sumeriancore? The definition is malleable, but most would argue that it’s a flavor of deathcore/metalcore with influences from technical death metal. Bands that are archetypal of this subgenre include Veil of Maya, The Faceless, and The Contortionist. Ironically, a common thread among the longtime fandom of these bands is the narrative about how their older releases had a certain sound that they abandoned later in their career. The fast rhythm guitars accentuated by short lead licks in The Common Man’s Collapse, the straight-up technical death metal in Planetary Duality, and the sublime heaviness of Exoplanet. Well, Dreamcatcher has all of that. Even the production on the album is reminiscent of Michael Keene’s sound from that era. At a first glance, this is everything a nostalgic fan of that overall package would want.
But that’s not really the end of it. Everything described so far is a potentially appealing, but could still go very wrong. A pure throwback could be still an uninspired, derivative blob. Instead, Aenimus cleverly take the core of the Sumeriancore sound and augment it with everything that metal has developed since then. While bands in this scene were definitely technical, death metal bands have since then increased proliferation of even more complex riffs and leads. Aenimus incorporate these seamlessly into the “oldschool” sound to create something that sounds familiar yet fresh. There’s some light synths, some upbeat singing, clean interludes, and everything else that has become “industry standard” by now, but there’s also the syncopation, the riffs that jump all around the guitar, all that good stuff.
Overall, Dreamcatcher is a fantastic throwback to a short-lived subgenre that was and still is beloved by many. Many bands have come back from similarly long periods of inactivity and not had anything to say, but Aenimus definitely have something to say, and it’s definitely worth listening to.