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Antipope > Denial / Survival > Reviews > TheWaltzer
Antipope - Denial / Survival

Just go with it - you’ll be rewarded - 80%

TheWaltzer, December 8th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

With a name like Antipope, you would either expect some blasphemous black metal or an infamous satirical synth-pop video clip (look it up). These Finns have been around the underground for a while and, frankly, never were your typical black metal band. Hell, they barely even are a black metal band, let alone a typical one. “Denial/Survival” might not be a surprise for those who have heard their previous works - but those who didn’t will surely be a bit confused by the general sound of this album. To say that these guys are more than happy to experiment is an understatement, as this record sounds very angular sometimes, and quite openly admits that “anything goes”.

Antipope are about as black metal as the latest works of Samael or Enslaved - both of the bands are rooted in black metal, but nowadays tend to use its elements sparsely. And bits of both can actually be heard in Antipope’s style - “Denial/Survival” is a very strange mixture of black-ish tremolo riffs, industrial arrangements, some odd keyboard touches, a strangely melancholic (is there such a thing as tongue-in-cheek melancholia?) atmosphere, clean vocals and, for good measure, a strong influence of heavy metal. In short, this record is a dozen kinds of weird. And proudly so.

Overall, it seems like Antipope don’t really even have a consistent style, they just come up with an idea and rely purely on gut feeling to develop it into a fully fleshed-out song. Thankfully, the ideas are mostly very good, no matter how strange they are. I swear that the acoustic interlude in the first part of “Resolution” sounds like a Mariachi band. There’s also a bit of flute on the second track, as well as a song that sounds like if Iron Maiden were forsaken in the Finnish woodlands - the galloping “Tragic Vision”.

For the less insane ideas, the backbone melodies (“Waters Below”, the huge chorus of “The Unconditional Ritual...”) or heavy riffs (“The Hunt”) are much catchier than your average band of random Finns. The songwriting shifts quite often, often from melodic to heavy and from loud to quiet, as Antipope seem to just go with whatever sounds good to them and mostly succeed.

Songwriting-wise, there is little to complain about. It’s challenging, sure, yet the songs have a good number of melodic hooks and never feel redundant. The simpler songs that are built upon one or two hooks are not exactly simple, either. Even “Der Sadist”, an eerie, bass-driven atmospheric interlude is actually very good in how it leads to the heavy “The Hunt” - which is one of the album’s highlights, by the way. The Tool-esque opening makes way for a banging midpaced riff and a very memorable chorus.

Perhaps another similarity Antipope share with the aforementioned Enslaved and Samael is the general weirdness of the vocals. The harsh ones are solid and make the heavier stuff, such as the title track, a bit more intense. The cleans… I cannot quite describe. The singer has a thick accent and his technique is clearly far removed from anything reasonable, however, he can still carry a note.. somewhat. This croaking is definitely an acquired taste, and can be off-putting… but given the fact that the whole album is one big oddity, you kinda just go with them. Also, a minor thing - the guitars are fairly quiet. Not sure if intentionally so, but some riffs could a bit of foam at the mouth.

This is such an odd band, and an odd album. It doesn’t quite sound like any other metal band, however, it’s not naive art, either. Skillful in performance and execution, and even better in terms of originality, “Denial/Survival” can hold its own despite a few greyish sections. And comparatively, I enjoy it more than the other two Antipope records I’ve heard (“Desert” and “House Of Harlot”), simply because there are more and better-defined hooks. This is a recommended release, just be ready for some confusion.