The Brooklyn music scene can be difficult to crack. Practice spaces are expensive, rehearsal schedules are onerous and booking shows requires herculean persistence, plus the right connections. For a band to survive requires a special combination of dedication, intuitiveness, intelligence, fortitude and, let’s be honest, cash. But, beyond those difficulties lies opportunity: As Anicon drummer and NYC Native Lev Weinstein (who also plays in Krallice and Geryon) explains, “Much of the music industry, particularly the critical side, is based out of New York City. So once you have some connection to the scene, you have access to opportunity which you can take advantage of.”
I meet the members of Anicon in the garden of a Williamsburg bar, with karaoke carrying on noisily in the background. The band has a natural chemistry. As we talk, they take repeated, playful jabs at one another, as if they’re working through a script from an episode of The Golden Girls. Bassist Alexander DeMaria (also of Yellow Eyes) describes their successful working relationship this way: “I saw a study on television that claimed couples who talk about bathroom stuff get along better and, I thought, ‘That’s Anicon in a nutshell.’”
In July, Anicon released their debut LP, which was six years in the making. Staying true to their locality, Anicon recorded the album in Queens at “Menegroth, The Thousand Caves” Studio with their friend Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice, Withered) manning the boards. The result is a thick, sludgy blend of mid-heavy destruction. Soft-spoken guitarist, vocalist and official van driver, Nolan Voss says the experience helped the band focus their sound when it came to tone and effect.
Despite the band’s affable nature, the album, Exegeses, is rife with philosophical underpinnings. As vocalist, guitarist and unspoken manager of the band Owen Rundquist explains, “The name, Exegeses, came from a treatise by Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet, which examines how we deal with the void of human existence. It postulates that horror is our attempt to deal with understanding finality.” Mirroring the canonical exegeses—or, interpretations—of the Bible, of which there have been seven accepted versions, Exegeses contains seven tracks. Building on the concept laid out by Eugene Thacker, “The album is an attempt to use horror in order to deal with the overarching search for meaning behind human existence.”
Not content with surface theorems, Exegeses’ dive deeper, naming their third track, “Mazzaroth,” after a biblical hapax legomenon—a word that only has one documented use in all of history. That single appearance is in Job 38:31-32: “Canst thou bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season? Or canst thou guide the Bear with her sons?” Because the word is only used once, it’s impossible to define, making it more of an ethereal concept rather than a literal object. The most popular definitions are tied to astrology, with Mazzaroth loosely meaning “The Constellations of the Zodiac.” It’s also considered a bringer of luck: the Yiddish term “Mazalot”—and the more colloquial Mazel Tov—are believed to be derived from this ancient root.
Anicon’s use of such an obscure term is further proof that, for all their surface humor and humble deflection, they’re a group of intelligent, thoughtful people. And, despite their wellspring of talent, they might need a little bit of “Mazalot” in order to break through in today’s crowded music scene.
The cover art for Exegeses was designed by Rundquist—who is, himself, an artist. His initial impulse was to solicit work from an artist he admired. “Originally, I had the idea to go with a painting by Native American artist James Lavadour,” he says. But then the band connected with photographer Kari Greer, “who, coincidentally, grew up not too far from me,” adds Rundquist. Due to the difficulty of communicating with Lavadour’s office, the group jettisoned that idea in favor of working with Greer, who supplied a few of her photos to use on the album jackets. Runquist traded one of his own prints in order to get the contractual agreement to use her photos. The expansiveness of her photograph, combined with Anicon’s moody music, is a perfect match, creating an experience that’s both auditory and physical.
Whether the band is praying for the stars to guide them, relying on sheer luck, or falling back on their dogged determination and friendship, it’s clear that they are all unified in their mission. Anicon’s planned to turn heads this summer on a brief tour with Ruins of Beverast, but that plan collapsed when the German band couldn’t obtain a Visa to play in America. Consistent with their personalities, the band soldiers on, taking over headlining duties. And if they can convincingly use a hapax legomenon in a metal song, winning a few new converts should be a walk in the park.