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What black metal should have been. - 87%

Raxz, March 20th, 2016

If death metal is everything that makes metal good not only exemplified, but taken to its logical extreme, then black metal is the pushback against that idea. It's someone saying "No, that's trendy." And thus the solution was to make something that's the opposite of death metal while still being extreme. Replace heavy riffs with screechy tremolo picked ones, replace amazing complex song structures with "hypnotic" repetition, replace massive, gruesome production styles with thin, wispy ones, replace brutality with "atmosphere," and you have (stereotypical) black metal. More or less.

But Antaeus takes the genre into a direction I actually strongly approve of. This album retains a lot of the characteristics that I just complained about, but makes up for it in an amazing way by being rightly pissed off sounding. While most (though not all) black metal leaves me disconcerted with the lack of frequencies being played in favor of just the most obnoxious ones, this is one of the bands that manages not only to actually have something going on on the low end other than kick drums, but fills in the mid and high ends as well, making for a very "full" and heavy sound overall while still being somewhat raw. The drums blast nearly constantly, but not in the slow "background noise" kind of way, rather, it sounds like the drummer could have been in a grindcore or death metal band. Oh wait. He is in one, probably not a coincidence. The vocals are a bit interesting as well; they're some of the lowest vocals I've heard that are done with a distinctly black metal styling, and it sounds awesome. Other times, he goes into an impressively high screech like at the end of Cyklik Torture and the middle of Control and Abuse.

The album starts off with some synthesized... stuff, but it doesn't overstay its welcome and is soon replaced with heavy riffing amidst an unrelenting wall of noise. And even when it finally does relent, you don't feel safe. For example, the freaky middle section of Control and Abuse builds up amazingly to its outro, where the discordant leads continue among the riffage, continuing until it goes into one of the only fade-outs in music history that actually makes sense. And almost every song has something interesting like this going for it, preventing the album from getting boring or tiring by the end.

If you're a fan of extreme music but don't like black metal or most black metal, I recommend giving this or any of Antaeus' albums a chance anyway. It's really something else.