Antre – Dark Spectrum EP


Nottingham black metal quintet, Antre (pronounced Ant-er), are going places. 2019’s Void album won much critical acclaim, and they accepted a recent offer from the developers of the Cyberpunk 2077 computer game to appear on the soundtrack next to Tomb Mold and Converge under the pseudonym of Dread Soul. Having shared a stage with English black metal heavyweights, Winterfylleth, they’re already established on the scene and look set to make it their own over the next decade.

The four songs on Dark Spectrum should enhance their reputation as genre upstarts even further. Though not clear if this is a taster of things to come on the next full-length release or a retreat into a different paradigm, this EP contains something for everyone in the extreme metal canon. The first track, ‘Through these Dead Eyes’, is a scorcher of Satyricon proportions with dense atmospheric tremolo riffs and agonising voice execrations from Patrick MacDonald lending it a furious intensity. Faster palm-muted rhythms from the Emperor school of guitarwork add a new perspective at the mid-point and lead into a surprise melodic storm of octave chords and doom vibes. You’ll need to play it back a couple of times to appreciate the full use of dynamics and subtle layers in this song.

Standout composition, ‘Become the Damned’, is the closest to a death-thrash attack like Manchester quintet, BruteAllies, or even the latest Nervosa album. All guitar chords are in a minor key (as you’d expect), and the alternation between crisp palm-muted rhythms and fast tremolo picking higher up the fretboard give it an added layer of menace. They succeed on all counts if the aim is to achieve a pernicious mood of misanthropic vengeance. It also explains the hype behind this band. Antre take you to those dark places in your mind you’d rather bury underneath a multitude of banal concerns.

The hardcore influences on the group’s music is harder to discern. Other than the d-beat drums on ‘Mask of the Saviour’, the Discharge inspiration is minimal. That’s not a criticism, either. MacDonald’s soliloquy in the middle-eight is like Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride at his maudlin best. It’s a pleasure to listen to both guitars in each speaker to analyse the different approaches to the same rhythms and patterns. The surprise decision to end the composition with a sprinkling of delicate piano notes indicate Antre’s next album might be more of a progressive affair.

It becomes clear on closing song, ‘Cursed Existence’, that the band are more interested in creating a dark mood than a vicious whirlwind of noise, even though the latter is prominent throughout the EP. The post-rock tempo reset at the two-minute mark is as introverted as the Phrygian melody that segues into a Neurosis contemplation from the five-minute point to the last blast of black metal at the end. It’s even more progressive than its predecessor and just as captivating.

Only one thing stops Dark Spectrum scoring an 8 out of 10, and that’s the drum technique and production on the blast beats. The muffled snares diminish the intensity levels of the music when they should be raging at a boiling point of extreme aggression. No doubt this is deliberate to achieve the atmospheric black metal sound Fenriz of Darkthrone endorses, but one cannot help question why they refuse to ramp up the levels when you consider how loud and vicious blast beats can sound in a live setting from bands like Magrudergrind or Kataklysm.

Who knows when the next album will follow? But on the evidence here, the expectation levels will be reaching into space.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/01/2021

Record Label: Withered Hand Records

Standout tracks: Become the Damned, Cursed Existence

Suggested Further Listening: Ysgaroth – Storm Over a Black Sea (2020), (0) – Skam Han (2020), Black Altar/Kirkebrann – Deus Inversus (Split EP) (2020)