Instead of sitting on music until they have the makings of a full album, Antagonist A.D have decided to release music in smaller parts. The first, Through Fire, also calls in previously released singles “No Justice” and “A.M.P.D.”, making it seem (to me, at least) like the EP and its later releases are a chronological capture of experience.
I reviewed Through Fire in the dark (by candlelight), and in this setting it felt immediately haunting from the introduction of the EP’s opener, “Gates Of Hell”. The instant state of terror and visceral anxiety makes for a tough song to listen to and be fully and empathetically present with, knowing that it’s inspired by the Dominion documentary.
Raw and slamming, “Gates Of Hell” moves from questioning what might shake the blindly compliant or willfully harmful from their stupor, and then moves into the experience of frightening torture or death itself. Heavy toward its end, it feels like the listener is put in the position of an animal at an abattoir.
I wasn’t entirely sure whether the title referred to the physical gates that keep the animals contained for their slaughter, or refers to something else (or even more than one thing). It’s effective nonetheless, as I picture both the fright and the fight of animals aware enough to know what’s coming.
“What does it take to wake you up?”
“Pure Fear” practically has a foul taste to it; that toxic stale breath of panic and anxiousness. Vocalist Sam Crocker does a good job of reflecting this with his voice, and the machine-like persistence and forward push of the instrumentation comes across as something overwhelming and unchanging. Haunting and punishing, the chant-style vocals and riff spirals feel encasing and trapping. Only toward the end is there something else possible, and fresher air to breathe.
Cold from the start, “Bloom” comes across as a tug of war between two sides and the grinding discomfort in that battle. There’s moments of two-steppable push that feel relentless, and sinking vocals that feel pressuresome. Continuing to get more and more dense, slow, and heavy, it’s quite the exhausting song to be with. The lyric “What a beautiful lie” and the idea of blooming only to die is pretty damn heavy, and true.
More chaotic and aggressive than the other tracks before it, “A.P.M.D.” is hard to keep up with. I dig the pre-chorus guitar tone and the soaring and searing sound throughout is brilliantly chilling and emotive. If I step aside from the chaotic emotion, I am in awe of the effort on drums here too.
Flying straight into “No Justice” is amazing. Though it’s been awhile since this song came out as a single, it sits perfectly at the end of this ‘story’ of sorts. It’s a solution to all of these oppressing and heavy experiences; the determination to be sovereign and what this means. It’s shedding the well-worn paths of authority or beliefs that serve the few and harm many. It’s an empathy-driven thirst for self-responsibility more than chaotic anarchy.
“No rules no borders
No excuses no doubts
No war no lies
No Gods it’s just us”
For a mere 12 minutes in duration, Antagonist A.D have certainly packed a lot into Through Fire. Virtually bleeding with concern but never losing an authoritative and measured voice, the EP has allowed the band to pool their political and social concerns. The result is a time capsule of modern day fears and frustrations.
Listening through Through Fire in full is energising and impressive, despite the murky depths of society that Antagonist A.D take us through. The flow through the entire EP, from track to track is perfect, and there were no jarring moments to speak of. This kept me fully engaged throughout.
I personally loved how even though hardcore can be a blunt force punch at times, that Through Fire has come with nuances of emotion enough to enjoy taking it in through that ‘lens’. The quality and clarity of sound is a big factor of that experience, having been expertly handled by Kurt Ballou (Converge) and Zack Weeks at GodCity Studios.
Though Through Fire is one piece of a bigger puzzle, it’s strong, meaningful, and feels like what it says, and sounds incredible. Its artwork, title, and song themes all combined have me think of using whatever small shred of hope we have to persist and prevail. I look forward to exploring the future parts of the bigger whole.
A steady stream of concern and questioning, frustrated at the harmful choices made toward others, with rejection of authority and self-responsibility the suggested remedy. The songs and subject matter were different enough to keep interest and the flow throughout the EP is stunning.
It's a strong release but there was nothing unexpected or wowing in terms of sound or song.