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Is it grindcore? Is it brutal/black/death metal? Is it empathetic or a cry for help? Either way, the Swedish one-man project comes at us full-pelt in a darkened side alley armed to the teeth with every horror film weapon imaginable.
A rabid and ferocious album, even its moments of quiet and relative stillness have a powerful and ominous air – first track, brilliantly titled Have You Tried Not Thinking About It (an obvious dig at the toxic irreverence and dismissiveness of friends/relatives/counsellors’ advice on dealing with low moods, intrusive thoughts, or worse), starts with pensive piano notes behind chatter from newsreaders discussing suicide stats before unleashing a relentless barrage of drumming and riffs at breakneck speed. When Liquid is the New Solid is no different with its blanket bombing approach (although… is that… a hurdy-gurdy I can hear?) Passenger of Decline makes great use of ominous violin scrapes and 2 note arpeggios to create tension and combined with a slow, sludgy start makes for a nice intro to more hyper-aggressive riffs that segue seamlessly into highlight Millstone Gallows.
So far, so good, as we’ve heard animalistic vocals, unnerving background noise blended into the sandblasting riffs, and precise drumming at tempos ranging from cautious to caustic. Shit Out of Luck begins with hooks that are playfully dangerous, much like a Bond villain henchman (think Benicio del Toro in Licence to Kill), and a colourful thrashesque drumming and riff combo greets us in A Stray in the Life – it’s obvious that M does what he wants, and does it to perfection. This is an album best experienced as a unit, as each song is committed to the same themes but displays them via a different combination of disciplines. Power exudes from every second, however, and the stiller and more meditative moments are not to be classed as ‘softer’.
Mix-wise, there is a lot of range and it leans slightly into rich bassiness; other than that, it’s perfectly neutral – not only is no instrument given precedent over the others, but it’s not too thick, not too thin, not too glossy, not too raw – aided by each section fitting perfectly together as a unit. Each element gets its time in the sun – the meditative and rough riffs, tension building drumming, scathing vocals, and steady bass.
The second half is as merciless as the first – grindcore speed, ominously bellicose music, and dark themes – and deal with the idea of loss and agony. Despite its gloomy nature, the album is thoroughly enjoyable and owes much to its visceral qualities: catharsis is the main theme of SKAM’s work, and as a gesture to those suffering (and not just because of the pandemic), M adds as a footnote on the Bandcamp page ‘As a means to truly do their part for the world’s mental health, the band are giving digital copies of their album at NAME YOUR OWN PRICE as a means of therapy for those who may benefit from it.’ But even if you had to pay top dollar for his release, you’d not be disappointed.
Release date: April 3, 2020
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