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Antlers – A Gaze into the Abyss review

Band: Antlers
Album: A Gaze into the Abyss
Label: Vendetta Records
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal
Country: Germany
Release Date: April 27, 2015Antlers - A Gaze into the Abyss

A Gaze into the Abyss is the first album by german black metallers Antlers, released on April 27th this year and these are my impressions of it.

It took me a while to realise that the album is quite a bit what it says it is – a contemplative music following black metal sound conventions livened up by a kind of unusual melodicity for the genre – there is an undeniablel folk influence here and there, complementing the black metal core. What we get are waves of blast beats with layers of tremolo picked guitars and mostly growled vocals. Most of the music is fast, but feels slow. Segments of harmonic progressions repeat over and over, unified usually by constant blast beats or fast double kicking, with exception of two downtempo songs. This is enough to induce the “staring into abyss” feeling, but, imho, unfortunately reduces catchiness over the course of the songs a bit. Also, the progressions feel kind of underdeveloped at times – I often found myself listening to a song, thinking “cool, this sound promising!”, only to lose focus a minute or two later and then, after what seemed a while, to realise that the song isn’t over yet. ADHD? My explanation is that a lot of the time the powerful and catchy harmonic ideas are developed in a way I just can’t manage to find interesting. Sometimes I felt like the album was a metaporical playground where someone started off with pieces of music and glued them together to see what would happen. This feeling really kicked in during the last minute and a half of “To the throats”, for example. Or, how do you explain that a black metal album finishes on a funky chord, without any hint of it through the album? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it should not be done – on the contrary, I’m a big fan of blending genres together. But the said elements, among others, made me question if there is a reason behind their presence other than because-why-not approach, and I don’t know if that’s the kind of thoughts that should be popping in one’s mind when listening to music.

Other important element having an impact on the atmosphere is the overall production. This is not the 90s Norway sound, however it relies heavily on reverb as a gluing element, making it feel and borderless. Also, it does not feel sterile at all – the sound is moderately dirty and the drums feel like there is a human being sitting behind the kit – thanks to the drumwork being dynamic and the timing not being 100% precise. Interestingly, there are moments when you won’t really pinpoint a kick drum in the fast blast beats, you can suspect it’s presence by the low end rumble – details such as this one make the music feel quite old-school, but not in a bad way.

If you made it as far as here, get ready for a plot twist, because I’m kind of torn on this album. It did not catch me nearly as much as I’d like it to do and I had hard time forcing myself go through it a few times for the purpose of this review. But despite all the above, it would be unfair to just hate it, because it doesn’t deserve it. I am now trying to be objective and admit that I don’t swear by Satyricon nor that I own a pyjamas with a picture of Fenriz on it. Even though I didn’t enjoy the album too much, I feel like a lot of people could. This is a kind of music that requires you(/me) to not to expect anything. Wait ‘till dusk, turn your analytical self off, close your eyes and get transported to the landsape from the artwork. Or, imagine a puppy with big sad eyes in front of your door – it’s cute, but nothing else. But it’s so cute. Aww…

Okay, I admit that’s a very cheesy metaphor, but I’m trying to show that Antlers want to communicate with you on a primal level – and you can love them or hate them for it. I think that the band has potential to evolve into something much more musically mature, and I would love to hear it, once that happens. Plus, I strongly suspect that this is one of these bands that is much more fun to see live than on the disc. So, with all above being said, I’m gonna give the Gaze a…

Rating : 7/10.

There are definitely some promising ideas present. What are they? Check it out and see for yourself. If you’re a black metal fan, chances are you won’t regret.

JT

Tracklist :
1. Reverence
2. Carnival of Freedom
3. Hundreds
4. To the Throats
5. A Jail of Flesh
6. Memories of the Extinct
Total Playing time : 39:06

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSD-xYZ65u0

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