March 28, 2009

CD Review: Antagonist - Exist

When I received this release from Antagonist, their latest, the cover art and name inspired a different mental image of the music than what I got. I was picturing something heavy, brutal, and unrelenting. Essentially, I was expecting something more along the lines of Beneath the Massacre. You know, a bit more towards the extreme or grindcore side of the coin. What I got was surprisingly accessible metalcore. Yes, I know, it is just another faceless metalcore act in an ever-expanding ocean of releases in said style. Exist is nothing special, only rarely giving us a glimpse of something that could take it from the realm of the mediocre.

It feels like only yesterday that the metalcore style was getting underway, raging through clubs, tearing up the road, and helping excise the remains of the nu-metal movement. Now, aside from the biggest of the bunch (Killswitch Engage, Unearth, Shadows Fall), I cannot help but feel we are all waiting for the next big style to sweep the nation and send music off in another direction. There are a variety of extreme styles that have a good head of steam, but I cannot see them ever getting the mainstream attention that metalcore has gotten; not that it is fair, it is just how I see it.

antagonistAll of this said, the metalcore genre has undergone a homogenization of sorts. The primary components of the genre have been extracted and reconstituted into a formula that has served many bands that have come since. There is not much to offer once the formula has been injected or otherwise consumed, the resulting music will have clean and screamed vocals, there will be melodic passages, post-hardcore breakdowns, and the occasional sing-along chorus. Antagonist has all of those elements.

However, even with the wave of uniformity that has come crashing down on the younger bands of the genre, it is still possible to stand out. Antagonist's material is primarily confined to the level of the mediocre, but they have an energy and passion that helps push it towards the worthy end of the scale. These guys throw themselves into the music, and it shows. While I cannot say I find any of the songs terribly memorable, their energy has made an impression on me. I can honestly say that I will revisit this album based on the energy.

Exist begins unassumingly with "Bomb Shelter." The track is catchy enough, but it is that middle of the road song that helps set the stage for the rest of the album by forcing expectations into check. That transitions to one of the stronger cuts, the title track, which comes complete with an opening reminiscent of Unearth. So goes the rest of the album, promising moments mixed with the forgettable.

This is a good example of what I love and what I hate about the genre. I love the blending of melody and brutality. Antagonist does a good job of transitioning between the two and I go right along for the ride. If I just have it on as background tunes, this is very easy to get into and just let the wave carry you along to its conclusion. The problem is when you stop for closer examination, there is no meat to really pick at.

Bottomline. You could do a lot worse than this. That makes it sound worse than it is. This is not a bad album, far from it, he problem is that all too often I am reminded of the better bands in he genre.

Mildly Recommended.


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