As a member of a Grindcore band myself, which stylistically leans closer to the present than the past, I’ve been an avid follower of modern Grind. Bands who aren’t afraid to push their own noise beyond the well-trodden and safe punk-with-blastbeats modus operandi. With Depressant, Antigama have enriched the genre while sticking true to the furious ethos which plays part to one of Metal’s ugliest cousins.
The almost ubiquitous sample intro, as you’d expect, rings in with a very Strapping Young Lad styled Cold War-era advertisement about medical products, with the quote spliced up a bit to repeat “pain” and “depression” several times over. The jazzy, almost elevator-music backdrop serves as a subtle lull of false security – and just like that, the sample drops and before you know it, the Polish Grinders come tearing around the block like a greyhound with a chilli pepper crammed up its holiest of holies. A perfect juxtaposition between the cure-all claims of the biomedical model and the reality of desperate existential despair, the brutally personal and visceral nature of lived experience with mental illness.
Vocalist Łukasz Myszkowski absolutely roars into gear amidst the band’s hyper-tempo grand entrance, his raspy bellow an original, organic take on Barney Greenway and the like. The absolutely blast-hungry pelting assault of drummer Paweł Jaroszewicz unleashes pure fury, pushing the tempo to the limits. Cephalic Carnage comes to mind as an almost Mathcore jangled riff flits in and out of punky, power-chord heavy chugs of Sebastian Rokicki’s frenetic barrage. Almost out of character for the genre, the low-end frequencies of bassist Paweł Jaroszewicz are given huge depth, thickness, space and discernibility. And for once, the damn bass player isn’t just serrating through the setlist with a damn distortion pedal set on buzzsaw! Finally, some Grindcore that is sonically heavy, not just harsh.
A long scream, slides up and down the neck, blasts and tremolo and the song has tapered off – only just long enough for you to catch a breath before the water-boarding continues. ‘Anchors’ is no Amity Affliction fare, despite the song title of the same name. Toms come rollicking into the track from the sticks, followed closely by a punchy bassline. Before you know it, the frenzied jumping back and forth into dissonance has begun again on guitar. And ah yes, those vocals. Almost like a best-of-Grindcore, the throaty roars and rasps from Lukasz never once lose their edge, pushing through with clarity but never lifting up into those orcish shrieks we often associate with this style. Relentless blasting closes out and once again, you are left as satisfied as you are gasping for respite.
‘Division of Lonely Crows’ offers you just that. Rolling in again come the drums with a simple punchy groove and some outright fun punky riffing, which slowly backs off and descends very subtly backwards a tone or two. More reserved fare from the rhythm section here, but the vocals refuse to follow suit. This trade-off ensures a feel of harshness even when providing a head-nodding bopper of a tune.
‘Now’ comes the time to dial it back up to eleven. I seriously am expecting the drummer to explode a-la Spinal Tap – Pawel’s absolutely bloodthirsty assaults when kicking into blastbeat territory provide a seething backdrop to Rokicki’s urgent tremolo. A brief pause before the vocals fling ‘IRREVERSIBLE!’ over and over at us, perhaps suggesting that the diagnostic handed down is more of a for-life chronic illness than a passing episode. The throatiness of the delivery would be enough to make gravel-mouthed Jacob Bannon of Converge want to fish the mic out of his esophageal tract for him.
“You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you, you sick bastard?” says the Noir gangster sounding sample. Yes, yes I really am. Depressant? This is glass-coated Valium for me. More, please, I’m getting hooked.
Don’t get too frisky for the hyper-tempo biscuit, folks. As you are aimlessly wheeled into ‘Room 7’ for what you can only guess to be psychotherapy, assessment, interrogation or a combination of all three, the schizophrenic, layered laughter suggests this album isn’t as lucid as once thought. Aggression gives way to a megaphone-like voice, trading between vocal rasps and a mid-tempo stomp. You’re being asked questions such as “Who do you want to become?” “what is the first thing you remember?” and other clinical prompts. A very much Hardcore breakdown brings your attention sharply back.
I can’t help but feel as though the band have de-institutionalised us on the title track ‘Depressant.’ Train station announcers, rattling tracks, crowds and a strange choking noise. Where are we? That off-key clean guitar tone sounds like it’s being played on scrap metal, not an instrument. Big open chords and marching drums plough through this haze, mixing with some deep, broad bass and leads that wouldn’t be out of place on Fredrik Thordendals’ Special Defects. Snarling and chanting round the strange affair off.
‘Shut Up.’ Again, electronica and Industrial-style sampling create an atmospheric effect nodding back to Devin Townsend’s early meandering, simulating wandering the streets as a confused, frightened vagrant. The organic, physiological change brought about by the drums pedalling slowly at first, picking up pace quiet quickly. Once the solitary sticksman hits that level of stimulus, a neural reaction from the blast-beating instigates a full-frontal assault from the entire motley lot.
The snare reaches boxing speedball levels of pummelling as those satisfying roars and trade-offs between hardcore romp and jangling mathy breaks. The chorus accuses you, insults you, demeaning and belittling you. “SHUT UP!” it repeats, with various statements such as “You have caused your problem.” Perhaps this was all hypochondriasis after all? This breakneck accusatory section smashes into a big open breakdown before the drums teeter back off by themselves. As quickly as the album came bursting into life it saunters off. The minimalist ending belies the album’s theme – a world of prescriptions and clinical diagnostics, levelling individuals and societies out in the name of a colourless plain to protect us from the stresses of modern life, and indeed ourselves.
With Depressant, Antigama have continued to separate themselves from their peers in terms of originality, fury and viscosity. There is a rumbling depth among the savagery that is often missing in Grindcore. However, the album remains faithful to the elements of its forefathers and peers, leading to an experience will leave an extreme Metal fan anything but depressed. This is pure mania, a small taste of the horror that is true psychosis and the isolation endemic to an over-medicated pathology model of mental illness. Highly recommended.
GET YOUR HANDS ON ANTIGAMA’S DEPRESSANT VIA THEIR BANDCAMP HERE!