I have a long history with Antagony, so you’ll just have to indulge me as I give you a background featuring names and titles that will fly right over your head.
I first discovered the band via a link on some random website, must have been late 1999 or so. I downloaded a few tracks and was impressed with their sound, which fell somewhere between grindcore and powerviolence (a slim area, I know, but you get the idea) that they called “sporadicore”. A few e-mails later and I had a copy of their debut EP Expect the Worst, which promptly began receiving heavy airplay at the radio station I was (and still am) DJ’ing at, followed a couple of months later with an in-studio performance, and even later, an appearance at the Southern California edition of November to Dismember, where one of those live tracks made it onto a CD they issued exclusively at the festival. The following year they issued their full-length debut, See Through These Eyes, musically leaps and bounds ahead of their previous effort, with more refined production and musicianship. They maintained their original sound but added a few more death metal elements and a few unexpected acoustic guitar moments. Then maybe a year or so later, they disappeared. I would run into then-guitarist Ben Orum at shows and he assured me things were OK, they were just taking a little time off, and that he had joined up with All Shall Perish (fresh off of their name and style change from End of All). I ran into bassist Carlos Saldana and he informed me he was no longer with the band. Meanwhile, their name would pop up every now and then in the scene but fade away just as quickly.
So you can imagine my slight surprise when this album landed on my desk. Looking inside I see that things have changed quite a bit. Gone is Orum, assumedly to concentrate full time on All Shall Perish. Saldana is back in the band, this time as the vocalist. The one constant in the band has been primary songwriter Nick Vasallo, who proves here that he’s got quite a few tricks up his sleeve, as the music here is a marked departure from the old Antagony.
Why do I bring all that up? Because I can. That and because from the moment I popped the disc into my stereo, the first thing that popped into my head was the name All Shall Perish. Not a sound-alike band by any means, but certainly similar in style and approach. A bit coincidental, given the link between the two bands, but I doubt that the success of that band had anything to do with Antagony’s new direction. Given all this information, Rebirth is definitely an appropriate name for this new effort.
The opening track, “The Awakening” pretty much lays it all down for you: death metal growls and riffs, hardcore breakdowns and screams, even a few blast beats. Definitely a monster, just like the nearly 12 minute title track, which flows together quite well and doesn’t get boring at all. You’ll find yourself surprised to look up and see that this is still the same track, due to its structure of multiple parts. Technically, these first two tracks go together, so it’s actually like one long 17 minute song. Wow. Guest vocalist Eddie Hermida of Gunmetal Grey adds his higher-pitched vocal sound to the chaos, providing a nice contrast to the deep growl of Saldana.
“Hybrid” is pretty much straight death metal until the last minute or so when the hardcore breakdown sections come in – and there is old friend Ben Orum with some guest vocals. “Last Days” has a quiet melodic intro that of course gives way to pure mayhem that we are now accustomed to, with guest vocals this time by All Shall Perish vocalist Craig Betit. There’s a tightly knit group of people here, made into a foursome by Hacksaw to the Throat, whose vocalist Ben Caragol makes a guest vocal appearance on “Abre Los Ojos”, which is death metal in spirit, a bit more hardcore musically. Despite having heard all of these bands, I can’t honestly say I can differentiate between the vocals, but who cares – it’s obvious the guys are just having fun recording together.
The album closes out with “Cultivate and Collapse” and “Beneath the Black”, the latter of which boasts yet another guest vocal from Hermida, which adds a good degree of metalcore flavor to the beginning of the track. “Cultivate” may well be one of the last songs written by the band’s previous lineup with Vasallo and Orum, as it sounds quite a bit like some of the material on their previous recording, but still blends in here perfectly.
And just like that, the album is over at only seven tracks, and you find yourself scrambling to start the disc again. Similarities to All Shall Perish aside, in the end Antagony stand tall on their own, adding a few unique elements to the death metalcore formula. This is brutal, brutal stuff that even the true will have to stand back and take notice of in spite of the hardcore elements present. With Rebirth, the band is truly reborn bigger, badder, and heavier than ever.