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There’s a problem with the word ‘heavy’ – no one knows what it really means. So let’s clarify its definition in regards to Antagonist A.D.’s latest effort. It’s heavy in subject matter; these tracks are dark, raw and so intense they’ll make your eyes water. The instrumentals are brutal. There are shrieking, piercing screams that will give you chills.
But it isn’t hard as nails. It’s not tough, harsh or assaulting. In fact, it’s probably the most vulnerable, emotional metalcore record you’ll hear this year.
Now that we’ve got that sorted, let’s discuss how brilliant it is. From beginning to end, it’s jarring. ‘Coffin Keeper’ is perhaps the most apt example of how sore and real this music is, with vocals that jump between audible and sensational texturing the tracks. The instrumentals on the LP craft a broody atmosphere that’s sustained throughout its length and which is, for the most part, intimidating. See ‘Ugly Days’ for further reference.
‘Hard Feelings’ is intense, and ‘Wanderlust’ is striking, with drums acting as perfectly rapid pace-regulators. Importantly, ‘Haunt Me As I Roam’ shows off how much Antagonist A.D. have sonically developed. ‘Old Love’ is battering and hostile, but not repetitious. It stems out, making listening to this album not a background task but an experience. You can hear how sure of their sound Antagonist are becoming in the risks that they take with this album, and to understate it significantly, we’re very happy about it.
It seems we’re not the only ones. The guest vocalists on the record represent how supported Antagonist A.D. are. Eponymous track ‘Haunt Me As I Roam’ features Ahren Stringer, while JJ Peters adds something fresh to ‘Dogs Blood’, Andrew Neufeld lends himself to ‘Wanderlust’ and Sam Carter helped architect ‘You’re Killing It (Downer)’ (pun absolutely intended).
While zeroing in on their sound is all well and good, the reason that the record is so damn impressive is what it deals with. The cathartic rawness of tracks like ‘Haunt Me As I Roam’ sees the New Zealand outfit expose themselves to the point of making you want to cry in the process, with the song being a tribute to a suicide victim and an amazing statement about the subject from a heartfelt standpoint. ‘Mother Father’ also represents the record’s ability to empathise, console and voice the candid, literal struggles of those behind it. Demon-exorcising, so to speak. ‘For Anyone Who Hurts’ is the perfect closer. After lamenting adversity, it offers hope to listeners and to the band themselves, reinforcing that “everything will change”. We hope it does, for Antagonist A.D., because they deserve every bit of hype that they’re getting.
How many hardcore bands have you heard of out of New Zealand? Exactly. Though us Australians would like to claim them as our own, Antagonist A.D. are in fact the New Zealand boys that could. ‘Haunt Me As I Roam’ is Antagonist A.D. reaching the peak of their evolution, and it will hopefully see them finally getting the due credit that they’ve worked so damn hard for. We’re proud of you guys.
1. Cold (Intro)
2. Coffin Keeper
3. Haunt Me As I Roam (feat. Ahren Stringer)
4. Hard Feelings
5. Wanderlust (feat. Andrew Neufeld)
6. Dogs Blood (feat. JJ Peters)
7. Old Love
8. You’re Killing It (Downer) (feat. Sam Carter)
9. Ugly Days
10. Mother Father
11. For Anyone Who Hurts