I clearly haven’t been keeping up: I wouldn’t say a new Antisect album is the last thing I thought I’d be covering this year, but it’s probably way closer to unexpected than to anything I’d have considered possible before…
…not that I’m complaining. Because I’m not.
Way back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was like six years old, Antisect was an upstart UK hardcore band, touring with Discharge, helping to progress the whole anarcho-punk agenda with their classic debut In Darkness There Is No Choice. That was 1983, and by 1986’s Out From The Void EP, they’d added further metallic elements, and alongside the likes of Amebix and Hellbastard, laid the groundwork for the crust punk movement. And by 1987, Antisect was gone, victims of the usual intra-band disagreements and exhaustion.
Of course, given the line-up, it’s not a big surprise that The Rising Of The Lights feels more like the extension of that later EP than like Darkness‘ anarcho-political punk. It’s been thirty years, but they’re picking up where they left off, with metal-inflected crust punk, now updated for the new millennium. As with Amebix’s Sonic Mass, that band’s smashing return in 2011, The Rising Of The Lights has a palpable Killing Joke vibe in its blend of post-punk spirit and metallic edge, and like Sonic Mass, it’s an absolutely grand return.
“Spirit-Level” kicks off the proceedings with Bryson’s insistent bass, Lyons and Burwell coming in with an arena-huge combo of driving beat and crashing chords beneath a wailing siren. With its rapid-fire verse melody, singalong chorus, and the instant hook of its “We will not be broken!” refrain, it’s a perfect crust punk opening shot, a call to arms and a statement of intent wrapped in gargled-glass vocals and scummy guitar tones. “Weapons Of Mass Distraction” is four minutes of ominous and accented spoken word – about the current state of humanity, of course – followed by three minutes of galloping riffy punk-metal, almost thrashy in its intensity, that leads headlong into “Acolyte,” which is arguably both the album’s most direct and least interesting song.
As strong as that first half is, The Rising Of The Lights hits a stride in the second half that simply doesn’t let up. Cribbing from their own playbook with In Darkness’ nonstop tracking, Antisect never pauses, one song jumps to the next, letting their dynamics and compositional differences be the divisions. The brooding “Welcome To The New Dark Ages” is killer, ending on a repeated stuttered chord and segueing right into the moody downtempo of the synth-driven title track. No break exists between that piece and the lead single “Black,” with its stomping riffs, and none stands between “Black” and the blistering “Something To Hate” and the pounding chorus of “Scared To Die.” Bryson and Lyons snarl and croon; Burwell pushes Lyons’ simple but effective metallic riffs perfectly; oftentimes, swirling synthesizers underpin everything, adding a dark and slightly malevolent air. It’s a powerful formula, indebted to Killing Joke and Amebix, though riffier than the former, and thankfully as dark and menacing as both.
Like Amebix did six years ago, Antisect has returned from the dead with a vengeance. As the world turns back to darkness, the time has come for the rise of punk again.
Righteous anger never gets old.