Monday, 9 September 2019

Antivalium - False Flags.

Album: False Flags
Artist: AntiValium
Label: Self-released
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Lie
     2.      I Remember
     3.      For What
     4.      Icon
     5.      Shot After Shot
     6.      Coming to Dinner
     7.      In this Together
     8.      Pass the Stranger

What do you get when you put two members of KnifeLadder in a room with some noise-making electronics, set up a tape-machine somewhere, tell them to spontaneously improvise, and see what comes out at the other end? You get AntiValium, aka Hunter Barr and Andrew Trail, who produce an unholy collision of jerky rhythms, grating drones, effects, and noisy mayhem, a kind of melding of disjointed, unconnected beats with acidic death industrial aesthetics. Stand in awe of this gargantuan, oil-smeared beast with acid for blood coursing through its veins, furnace fires in its belly, and lethally-sharp scythes for hands.

‘Lie’ begins with a child’s voice singing a simple song, replaced by a rasping oscillation accompanied by a buzz, the machine self-starting and booting-up a program of malefic intent and violence. ‘I Remember’ jerks in on a spasticated rhythm, while grinding, scraping, scratching defilements mutilate and butcher flesh and bone in the background. Anguished, distorted vocals spew spite, rage, and disappointment in a torrential deluge. Crashing the bloody party is ‘For What’, a heavyweight slab of industrial percussive electronics, the kind that’s played at a pre-Armageddon night at the local dance-hall, a platform for agitation and fomenting revolution. Inciting further disturbance and unrest is ‘Icon’, a broken, twisting rhythm a comrade-in-arms of the concrete and steel percussive elements, a soapbox for more anger-filled vocals shouted through a loudhailer. This is the fulcrum, the pivot point at which it either tips into resistance or supine acquiescence. The momentum building here is undeniable, and all it would take would be a small spark to detonate it into explosive action…

‘Shot After Shot’ is the inevitable response from those who have the most to lose – the authorities and the rulers. Sweeping drones supported by a strident beat, with voices mixed in, portray a massed battalion of the serried faceless and emotionless forces of oppression, awaiting the signal to begin suppression and decimation.

The pace lets up in ‘Coming to Dinner’, a stalemate perhaps while forces regather and recuperate, the calm before the storm constituting a brief respite before the next explosion of anger instigates more bloodshed. This is almost death ambient, more about atmosphere and setting a scene rather than relentless assault and attack; a menacing, loping behemoth, crushing and trampling, a harbinger of ruin and catastrophe. ‘In this Together’ (a now-hollow sounding phrase coined by a certain political party here in the UK) comes the closest to being a song on this album, driven by a pounding bassline and replete with ‘tuneful’ vocals. This is almost a victory anthem, although it’s still informed by dark ambient and noise aesthetics with a little bit of martial industrial thrown in for some seasoning.

‘Pass the Stranger’ is the most reminiscent of old-school industrial to me, pounding drums belting out a tribalistic/martial beat, blasting fuzzed-out guitar, and treated vocal line. This, if I had to name one at all, is perhaps my favourite here, as it takes me back in some weird manner to way back when to the time I first got into industrial. There’s such a mixture here: the martial, the industrial, the punk, and the noise freakouts that pretty much summed up my early encounters with the scene.

One of the most pleasing aspects of False Flags is that it sustains its intensity for the whole duration of the album – it sounds as if AntiValium had a lot to get off its chests and it all pours, nay spews, out in a flood of acidity and acrimony. I can’t vouch for Messrs. Barr and Trail’s inspirations, but whatever they are I took a great deal away from this as it matched my feelings about the current political and social situation. Everything appeared to align in that regard. I couldn’t shake the feeling that AntiValium was just concretising into sound what I’ve been feeling. On that score alone, it’s a blinder of an album, distilling a witches’ brew of anger, dissatisfaction, resentment, and ill-feeling into eight tracks over nearly 50 minutes. This deserves to be blasted out loudly and proudly.

Available for preorder now (out on October 12th 2019) as a limited edition CD and a digital download:

Pymon Marshall 2019.

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