Originally written by Justin Bean.
Black Market Activities’ Animosity (like most BMA bands) resides somewhere in the grey area that is the constantly debated and always illusive intersection of metal and hardcore. As bands like Despised Icon, the Black Dahlia Murder, and Through the Eyes of the Dead (among a multitude of others) continue to challenge the boundary of ‘metalcore,’ more frequently I am hearing bands that have no problem toggling stylistically between straightforward death or thrash metal and hardcore. It goes without saying that rarely is a band of said persuasion able to push its metal sound to a level comparable to, say, Decapitated, but nevertheless, bands falling under the subgenre ‘metalcore’ are growing heavier (more metal, if you will) every day. San Francisco’s Animosity are no exception to this trend. Yet to say Empires has nothing more to offer than a further rehashing of an already diced and dissected genre would be selling short a very solid release.
After some mildly frightening sound effects that resemble the death rattle of a Nintendo game system, Animosity launches into “Thieves.” As the tempo switches sporadically from mid-paced chugs to blast beat grind, the latter accompanied by impressively syncopated dual guitar work, it doesn’t take long to figure out what sort of album Empires is. For the best result there is a specific method of listening to it; taken in three or four song doses Empires has some excellent material to offer. For example, “Holy Shackles” opens with a riff that will grab anyone by the throat and slows only for a well-placed verse of sludgy heaviness that brings to mind Swarm of the Lotus, with some simple but effective lead guitar tossed into the mix. That said, it doesn’t take long for the tracks to blend together, except for a number of memorable parts here or there (parts that you will subsequently search for the next time you listen, leaving you skipping from track to track unable to figure out where that wicked riff was, or the killer breakdown).
Animosity is able to mix the more chaotic elements of modern hardcore (see, Buried Inside) with the buzz saw dual guitar work characteristic of death metal. The vocals are definitely on the low end of the spectrum but the ‘death metal’ gurgles and grunts only come out in a few instances, and, to their credit, always at the appropriate time. There are even some crew-style group vocals. The recording is well suited for the band’s sound and allows for an organic dimension that enhances the hardcore aspect of their music. No instrument is too overpowering, but the standout recording in the mix is the drums which manage to have the death metal ferocity when needed but are also able to play the not-so-metal angle when the music allows.
With song titles such as “Thieves”, “Commoditism” (which I’m not sure is actually a word), and, “Plutocracy”, the sociopolitical lyrical theme of Empires should be apparent. And we mustn’t forget about the anti-religion diatribe “Holy Shackles”. I haven’t made myself familiar with their prior release Shut It Down (on Tribunal) so I can’t make a comparison, but Black Market Activities have definitely done themselves a favor by signing Animosity.