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CD Review: Antigama – Resonance

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antigama resonanceOver three full-lengths and a slew of splits, Poland's Antigama have honed their simultaneously retro and futuristic take on grindcore.  The latter aspect has grown with each release, especially on 2005's Zeroland.  However, Resonance firmly tips the band forward and establishes them as true grindcore visionaries.

It's interesting how grind's greats have dealt with its endgame nature.  A genre based on "as loud and fast as possible" will hit limits in both playing and listening.  Sure, drummers routinely blast above 250 bpm now – but do 270 and 280 feel that different to listeners?  Napalm Death backed away from its early "all in" ethos and detoured through death metal.  After hitting the speed limit early on, Nasum shifted towards depth and darkness.  Discordance Axis added post-punk dissonance; Pig Destroyer went emo(tional).

Antigama's calling card is technicality – not with finger-twisting riffs, but with jazzy, dissonant chords and angular songs that sound like robots in pain.  If previous releases felt like the band was reaching for something (see Zeroland's meandering electronic experiments), they've found it on Resonance.  The record feels fully in control.  Its 17 tracks smoothly and precisely obliterate 32 minutes with not a note out of place.

What stands out about Resonance is its seamless fusion of grindcore's past and future.  "No" is a basic grindcore face-scraper until 45 seconds in, when it yields to jazzy chords and drum rolls.  "By and By" alternates furious grind riffs with sliding upper-register dissonance.  "Order" operates similarly, shifting from a simple oompah beat to blastbeats and back; Napalm Death in the 22nd century might sound like this.

The songwriting is smoother, too, and more confident than ever.  The songs' many angles don't stick out awkwardly anymore.  Now they're simply part of sleek, efficient killing machines.  The band even has the chutzpah to stick two and a half minutes of straight-up jazz in the middle, complete with clean tones and organ.  At first, the interlude feels odd.  But it divides the album, giving the listener a break to "flip the record."  When the crushing doom of "Psychonaut" drops afterward, the interlude makes perfect sense.

A big part of Resonance is the drumming.  It's some of the most rhythmically inventive in metal in a while, fluidly mixing thrash and blastbeats, with colorful, tribal fills all over the place.  The toms are seemingly pitched up, creating a sound not unlike the bongo rolls when a Scooby Doo character runs in place for a second before taking off.  The riffs leave plenty of space for such fills; the result is oddly quite fun.

Usually grindcore is, and should be, a full-on assault.  However, Antigama has done that already.  Resonance injects grind's framework with light, shade, and variation.  Thus, it's not only often more hard-hitting, but much more listenable.  These 17 tracks fly by seemingly in seconds; you'll want to hear them again and again.


Antigama on MySpace
Relapse Records

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