ANTIGAMA – Whiteout (2022)REVIEW

It’d be easy to pick up ‘Whiteout‘ on blind impulse and quickly sum Polish grindcore artistes Antigama upon sight as a post-‘Inhale/Exhale‘ and ‘Enemy of the Music Business‘ inspired gig and that’d be fair n’ fitting enough assessment ’til you’ve sat with their whole discography and taken in how their initially avant-garde (for its time) sound developed within their twenty plus year, eight LP ride up to this point. From underground grind labels in the early 2000’s to a several album run with Relapse and eventually back to premiere grinding death stans Selfmadegod with ‘Meteor‘ circa 2013 these folks have developed their sound with each step while still maintaining a ruthless, classic death-grinding riff attack. That sixth album was the point where their noisy, math-metallic, harshing experimental edge found its most signature face, never losing the odd-angled personae of the group but cinching up their performances to a new point of precision-based surrealism. Pick up anything from the band in the last ten to twelve years and the evolutionary gait of their work walks a clear enough line between the interplay of their riffs/rhythms and a knack for finding various ways to keep it weird. ‘Whiteout‘ ain’t all that different, if anything it is their most straight forward ripper to date.

If you do decide to wheel all the way back in time to the early 2000’s the peak statement from the circa 2000 formed Warsaw-based group’s original modus landed somewhere between the still underrated breakthrough of ‘Zeroland‘ (2005) and the sort of go-to off-kilter attack of ‘Resonance‘ (2007). They’d quickly moved to refine and repossess their sound between 2008-2013 and in terms of their major reorientation, or, point of decided-upon evolutionary post-hardcore/’progressive’ skilling up, the monolith had been discovered and crowned on ‘The Insolent‘ (2015), justifying a longer-than-ever break between full-lengths at that point. Where next? Well, it now seems like rather than fighting upstream the band decided to let it flow around them a bit and let the dissolution of expectations stack up. I hadn’t written about the band until ‘Depressant‘ in 2017 where I’d ignored plenty of this context for the sake of a quick rip through the larger bent of their discography, suggesting that EP represented a trend of one-upping past releases with new ideas. The truth of it seems to be that these folks have eclectic taste in general and deathgrind is their foil to whip it all together into an apex form of extreme metal, which I’d add has always been heavy on the riffs even when they’d dropped a lot of their math metal/’noisecore’ gravel grinding.

The major takeaway on my part back in 2017 was that I was surprised still liked grindcore’s death metal adjacency quite a bit, though my education on it largely took place in the late 90’s, and specifically where this lesser-known Polish troupe had taken post-millennium grindcore, a bit farther than where Napalm Death had gone with it beyond their eruptive Earache exit. From my point of view Antigama are still very much up on a higher plane of the form alongside bands like Axis of Despair and Dephosphorous, a few and far between sort and ‘Whiteout‘ justifies holding onto that shortlist of favorites.

Whether or not you’ve taken the time to dig through their past, or their more recent work ‘Whiteout‘ doesn’t make a jarringly -new- case for Antigama‘s sound but rather a good one that will appeal to folks whom still love the classics but appreciate a twisted spin on aging ways. They really do just bash it out as fast and hard as possible for most of this ~29 minute album, leaning into a few odd tangents here and there but minimizing their experimental side until a few novel moments expand the greater palette on the second half. The vortex created in the wake of such brutality is undeniably entertaining, not only impressive as spastic grindcore-birthed death metal riff magic but also appreciably furious and (to some degree) thought provoking work otherwise. I’d had some difficulty deciding if this approach was more naked than usual, whether it left something to be desired or not but ultimately their machine-like, dystopic and digital-aged form of always 100% powered-up deathgrind managed to be a memorable, flex-heavy full listen and not the sort of thing one should overthink.

In terms of when things take a different turn the anxietous wringing of “Disasters” eventually works in some unexpected vocal work, though you could argue this is more of a late 90’s metal moment rather than a true freak-out. The same could be said of “Howlers” which incorporates a sort of simple percussive brilliancy with a bit of bongo-blasting snare interplay, a touch of what the band were experimenting with on ‘Resonance‘ and ‘Warning‘ back in the late 2000’s. I personally love that sort of ‘tribal’ rhythmic extension of aggressive beats eh, when it doesn’t head in an alt/groove metal direction. The most out-there piece on the album comes at its conclusion with “2222” featuring saxophonist Marcin Kajper, whom has also worked with classic heavy/thrashers Turbo in the past. It isn’t the first instance of saxophone in deathgrind I’ve heard (Siege‘s “Grim Reaper“, if that counts?) but it is a brilliant collaboration thanks to a combination of wily runs and creative rhythmic follow. A playfully dystopic send-off for an album I was sure would plainly decapitate me start to finish.

To be fair the rest of the album did whip my skull off the majority of the time, pulling me back into the exciting, brutal extremes of deathgrind that’d almost miraculously extended the potable ‘mainstream’ successes of grind throughout the 2000’s thanks to bands like Nasum, Pig Destroyer and Discordance Axis. Lead single “Holy Hand” was the exact right way to pull me in, at least beyond the sheer density of “Undeterminate” / “Debt Pool”, in terms of nostalgic ideation with its heavy-handed downstroked hardcore punk chugs and machine grinding swells. The song itself it lands more metallic hardcore than anything else and I guess I was surprised Antigama didn’t lean heavier in this direction if only for the sake of how popular simple chug hooks and late 90’s revisionism is nowadays. Instead of getting stuck on that groove ‘Whiteout‘ mashes at the extra ‘The Code is Red… Long Live the Code’-esque riffing of “Dust Farm” (and “Unclear Conversations” for that matter), an extension of what they were doing on ‘Depressant‘ which bleeds into aforementioned standout “Disasters”. Anyhow, a track-by-track won’t ever read as much of a thrill on paper as it will in ear, in fact it only highlights the small amount of requisite listening one might need to do to appreciate the style of deathgrind these guys are hammering away at.

The hot tempered, maniac rush of ‘Whiteout‘ supersedes the noveau-grind details and constant swerve out of the norm featured on the band’s best known releases to some degree. This might be a detractor for those expecting a record they can tout as ‘progressive’ or forward thinking but from my perspective this is Antigama focusing on putting the hardest reactionary punch they can and really, it is where they’ve always shined most. What they’ve whipped up in this half hour is the sort of stuff that you’ll want to see performed live, big-time moshable 2-3 minute pieces and athletic sweat-and-spit fling fests which the grindcore tag today deserves such a loud, brutal reminder of. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Selfmadegod Records
RELEASE DATE:July 15th, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.