We here at Beat Blvd. have been along long enough to know a few truths, and one of them has become clearer with time — there are always going to be some form of goth/prog/metal bands out there doing something anthemic, sometimes cryptically and sometimes openly. This isn't a complaint by any means — there's a reason why our copies of things like Tool's Lateralus are very, very well loved — and we've reviewed a few local entries like this in the past. So where does Huntington Beach's Anna Vexa, recent nominee for the OC Music Awards best metal band, fit in to this particular mix?
On the band's debut self-titled EP, released this past September, the quartet definitely leans a bit towards the kind of song that could have appeared on KROQ in one way or another over the past years — thanks in part to Brad D's lead vocals, “Center Framed” actually sounds like a kissing cousin to Linkin Park's “In the End” minus the nu-metal moves but with bells at the end. Other songs like “Pariah” and “Vain and Vexation” both sum up the thematic obsessions as well as the familiar elements at play — unexpected harmonies, screamed-and-sung choruses, choppy and nervous riffs and more besides, even down to the acoustic ballad at the end.
So it's a starter kit rather than something distinct, but then again that's almost every band's story at the beginning (to invoke Tool again, there's a reason why their debut EP Opiate isn't as well known as what followed). If anything there's something sweetly smile-producing in listening to Anna Vexa, at realizing how what was once a new twist on things has become its own kind of tradition like so much else out there over the years. And if we're a long ways away from our own high school years of discovering Metallica and Rush in the late eighties, we know what it was like to discover them in the first place.