I never went to zoos very often as a child. Maybe once or twice. Now that I’m older, the thought is somewhat depressing. Luckily, living in Montreal, I do have the pleasure of going to the Biodome. The Biodome not only recreates the environments for the animals that are housed there — but also the climates. Rather than keeping the animals inside cages, the Biodome offers large rooms for them to roam around in, creating winding paths that allow the visitors to see the animals in a habitat that is as close to natural as possible. From watching the monkeys swing from tree to tree to having birds literally fly overhead, the Biodome is an immersive, sprawling experience.
I’m not quite sure why Anadivine named their debut album Zoo. Perhaps it’s referring to the sloppy, dizzying cut and paste artwork that graces the disc’s liner notes. More appropriately, I’d like to think it refers to the pastiche of styles that the group blends together. Thick hardcore riffing, sweeping indie-rock melodies and heady emo choruses all vie for equal attention. Thankfully, the Anadivine have little problem juggling all these styles, creating an album that nicely unites the group’s disparate influences.
Working in the studio with Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner, Anadivine seems to have found engineers and producers who truly know how to bring about the best sound for the group. Birnbaum and Bittner also manned the boards for Coheed and Cambria’s breakthrough album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. Both groups mix pop sensibilities with a more traditional hardcore/metal framework. Unfortunately, Anadivine lacks the forward thinking and progressive spirit of Coheed and Cambria; although these songs are well crafted and nicely executed, they are instantly forgettable. There are dozens of bands with a similar sound operating within the same scene as Anadivine. Though Zoo is blessed with a production team that gives the songs room to breathe, the listener must struggle to remember it.
It’s hard not to get distracted by other things. Guitarists Michael Saracino and William Manley can certainly write some stinging riffs; drummer Justin Meyer fluidly shifts from style to style. But the listener’s interest can’t help but flag by the midpoint of the record. There are certainly some nice moments, such as the math-rock guitar aerobics that occur early on in “Dangerous Mixed With”, the explosive opening to “This Accident Worked Too Well”, and the breathtaking conclusion to “Duet from the Dead”, the album’s final track. But these moments are few and far between. The songs that surround them are mind-numbingly dull.
Anadivine is clearly comfortable with its sound, but with countless other bands copping the same moves, it is unclear how they will stand out. The players are skilled and the songwriting talent is there, but if Anadivine wish to remain relevant they have to begin challenging themselves — and the scene around them — with something new.