Paris-based hardcore purveyors, Anna Sage, first appeared on the scene with 2014’s The Fourth Wall EP and followed it up in 2018 with another extended play called Downward Motion. Now, after eight years since their first record, they’re ready to unleash their debut album. Like Botch and Converge, the quartet take their raw energy and blistering fury to mathcore levels of chaos. Indeed, you might even call their self-titled debut, We are the Gauls, just as Botch named their influential classic, We are the Romans.
Anna Sage’s purpose is to shake you out of your torpor. The guitars bristle with a nasty undercurrent of dissonance and seldom relent in their bludgeoning delight. Chrysal Roy’s drums are just as intense and insane in their violence. Opener, ‘The Holy Mice’, demonstrates the power of percussion when all instruments lock into a staccato blow, like hoodlums smashing a defenceless body with baseball bats. Vocalist, Xavier Perreve, inhabits a world of hysterical rage throughout the three minutes and eight seconds and stays in this discomfort zone for most of the record. Follow up, ‘Sinner Ablaze’, is the heaviest post-hardcore imaginable, like Deadguy teaming up with Refused. How does Gabriel Hippolyte avoid the temptation to chug on the open strings of his guitar like any other hardcore band in this situation? Those discordant shapes could be from the hand of a black metal six-stringer if the drums supported them with blast beats.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Anna Sage’s onslaught is their vitriolic anti-clerical stance and disdain for those that believe in the afterlife. “Your fake way of life/ Your church is a lure/ Slaughter all and then die/ The wall in their eyes/ They fall from their skies/ Hear ‘em antagonize,” roars Perreve on the d-beat stomp of ‘The Deadly Mess of a Dying Head’. The dark ambient beginnings of ‘V’ capture the wildest fantasies of purgatory before launching into a triumphant post-metal destruction of the senses. You might even call the main riff a thrash metal rhythm, but the overdrive and noise are too chaotic for a head-banging reaction.
The band offer glimpses of self-discovery on ‘Hostile Cage’, with its blend of dissonant hardcore punk and powerviolence. To escape the metaphorical cage that gives us security and keeps us ignorant is one of the enduring messages of the European enlightenment since Immanuel Kant. ‘Lost in a Frame’ dares to insert a subtle layer of devotional keyboard harmonies in the background, yet they’re not always on point with their determination to second-guess you. ‘Double Bind’ is less than four minutes in length but feels like seven once you reach the end. It’s easy to feel jaded by the time closing track, ‘…The Serpents’, blasts through your speakers.
The aggression and passion of this record are admirable, but this album needs more space to breathe. That way Anna Sage can justify the forty-minute running time and leave you feeling satiated rather than grateful for the few moments of oxygen in between having your head plunged into the water. Nevertheless, one remains in a state of excitable apprehension for most of the listening experience, and only a fool would chastise the band for delivering such a manic display of righteous anger.
Release Date: 15/04/2022
Record Label: Klonosphere Records
Standout tracks: The Holy Mice, Sinner Ablaze, V
Suggested Further Listening: Orphan Donor – Unraveled (2021), Converge – You Fail Me (2004), Pupil Slicer – Mirrors (2021)