Release DetailsLABEL Dwell Records
RELEASED ON 11/21/2006
An Envy of Innocence
posted on 11/2006 By:
The Los Angeles area underground metal scene and Antagonist are no strangers to each other, as this still young four-piece (I think some of them were in the band since they were barely teenagers) have been steadily building a name for themselves by playing gigs anywhere that can contain a sound system, to opening for some pretty notable hardcore and metal bands as well. Through all the lineup changes during the past 8 years they’ve existed, An Envy Of Innocence is the result of serious hard work and determination, as these Whittier, California guys lash out aggressively in their bid to establish themselves as group who is worthy of attention, and support, no matter what conservative local political obstacles stand in their way.
I don’t think Antagonist have set out to try to redefine an entire genre by themselves, but they certainly have no problem with letting complete creative freedom dictate their song ideas. The sense of compelling, angry melody these guys have is impressive, and after confirmation with the band, their influences are far more metal than hardcore. There are Pantera-esque breakdowns peppered throughout, and admittedly, much of the material here could easily be appealing to metalcore followers, but calculated death and thrash metal play a much more vital role here, and it shows. They don’t try to be extreme for extremity’s sake, or rely on failsafe Swedish melody, and instead latch themselves onto many furious Bay-Area grooves like leeches on raw, bloody flesh, displaying a great talent for restraint for the sake of thoughtfully composed songs.
This restraint isn’t meant to imply they’re playing things safe or being predictable, for this is anything but yawn-worthy. From excellent acoustic openings, to chunky, bloodthirsty thrash metal riffs (“Despiertate”), to suddenly unexpected jazz flurries leading into piggish guttural gore metal belching, aligned with solos worthy of Alex Skolnick’s Seal Of Approval (“The Renouncement”), through sparse nuances and shifts in stylistic direction from modern traditional metal along with an almost Tool/Isis-lite sense of build and recession (“Samsara”), no corners were cut here. Hell man, fucking “Valor And Villainy” alone wipes the floor with much of the faceless queerio haircut fare to be heard this year. This is some good shit.
Vocalist/guitarist Carlos Garcia goes through pretty much every vocal style he is capable of, and is effective at any type of singing he attempts, with one exception. His clean vocals that come into play during some parts are a bit off-putting, not so much as being technically flawed, just lacking in strength. I’m choosing my words carefully here, because while I think his croon is just ‘ok’, it feels as though Carlos also isn’t 100% crazy or comfortable with his clean singing either. The idea isn’t bad, or out of the reach of success, but his less extreme vox simply don’t pack the overwhelmingly confident punch of his thrashing Chuck Billy growl, or higher-ranged roar. This is only a minor gripe, and certainly nothing that can’t be overcome with time, and a little more self-assuredness. But since I’m at it, the delayed ending to the final tune “Heal, My Wound”? Kinda’ funny, but the next time I see a track time of over 13 minutes for one of their songs, there better be music playing through the whole damn thing. I hope they don’t do that again, because it stopped being cool 5 years ago.
Antagonist almost reminds me of a younger, hungrier version of God Forbid, who don’t mind throwing in acoustics in place of a breakdown, even though their breakdowns are fucking massive. An Envy Of Innocence is a very, very tastefully constructed, down-to-earth album, mature without sounding snotty, which pays tribute to their influential forefathers without lowering themselves to campy or stale commercial imitation. Carlos, Matt, Lond & Paul, (since I know you're reading) you all should raise both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages alike in a toast amongst yourselves, but you can probably push your boundaries even further and still do exceptionally well. You’ve got one foot firmly on the ground, and last four toes planted with the other. If you can land that big toe down hard and keep it there, you will truly be a band to watch out for. Keep it up, ‘cause you’ve got nothing but bright lights in your sky. Don’t lose sight of them, fair enough?
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