Completing a circle with a razor-sharp edge, December 7, 2009 By Scott Sweet 'Music Freak' (Colorado Springs, CO) Recap: With 'The Burning Season', Monica Richards and William Faith shook off both their fans' expectations and their own. Since then, they've worked steadily in Permaculture and animal rights while getting their punk on in Anarcho-Vegan band Anima Mundi. Six years later, : Ankoku Butoh: merits the wait. This time the theme is reverence for nature and soul rebirth, from the perspective of Japanese Shinto. In spite of the title ('Dance of Utter Despair'), the songs don't dwell on anger and grief as much as rediscovering our place in nature, and then taking action. Specifically, against greed, religion and social injustice. The CD: *The Woman in the Snow ~ Monica sensed this melody during a rough flight. The music and heartbeat crescendo, leaving only Monica's voice to reflect the safe landing. *Kamimukae ~ A second wordless piece; check out Violin virtuoso Paul Mercer by any and all means. *Blessed ~ After those gentle openers, WHAM! This is F&tM's fastest song to date. Don't attempt the Running Man to this or you'll have a stroke. NOW we have lyrics, a call to join the underground. *Battle Hymn ~ Catchy and danceable as hell. Deserves it's own genre, 'Shinto Rock'. *Bushido* ~ A Taiko drum interlude. Faith studied Taiko, and it's clear why the Samurai used this to juice the troops. *Nine Dragons ~ Faith continues the war vibe, describing an attack and the liberation of 'the meek and the voiceless'. For me, this is a nice bookend to 1994's 'Trauma Coil'. William yells like a champ AND gives us excerpts from Sun Tzu's Art of War. *Harai ~ Finally, a breather. The sound of a Shinto Garden behind a bell instrumental. *When We Go Dark ~ Straight-up deathrock, with a rhythm and mood similar to 'Scars Flown Proud'. *The Red Crown' ~ This has a nice This Ascension feel. An indictment of those who give up: 'The world will end, they say...so why not watch it burn?' *Kodama ~ A smooth blend of 60's lounge and Nat 'King' Cole's 'Nature Boy'. The most scathing lyrics on the CD: 'There was the Spirit and the Machine, the mechanical Philistine'. *She Waits by the Well ~ Monica harkens to the groove of 1999's 'Chorus of the Furies'. Mother Nature's patience wears thin. *Sovereign ~ FUN, butt-shakin' deathrock. A hint of Rozz Williams creeps in through Faith's exuberance: 'So come out, come out wherever you hide / Time to stand and walk with pride'. *To Be Continued ~ A somber torch song. Close your eyes, and you can see Monica standing atop a seaside cliff in high wind, singing out to a departing fleet. The DVD: *Videos for 'Battle Hymn', 'Blessed', 'Into My Own', and 'The Burning Season' *Full concert film of F&tM at Convergence XIII (2007) *Interview with Monica and William *Footage from various concerts over the years *Trailer for the graphic novel series 'Anafae' by Monica Richards and Jim Neely The Book: GORGEOUS! Printed in Japanese style ('reverse' for us), every page swims with color and features many of the lyrics from : Ankoku Butoh: This is the centerpiece of some *beautiful* packaging. To quote from the disc packaging: 'It's your world. Take it back.'