Three years after Fear of a Unique Identity, Mick Moss returns with a new album from his melancholic rock band Antimatter. This sixth studio album is called The Judas Table and features perhaps the most direct and most explicit cover artwork in the history of the band. Two androgynous people wearing straightjackets seem to be kissing each other, however, it remains somewhat unclear if this happens out of love or sympathy, or because they have no other choice. After all, their bondage appears to force their faces to collide. This surely makes for interesting cover theme—one that suggests that human relationships are once again the key topic for the project, this time in The Judas Table.
Long-time fans of Antimatter will already know that since the departure of Duncan Patterson, the sound of the English dark-rock band has changed rather significantly, focussing even more on the acoustic and electric guitar and giving songs a heavier and more direct touch. In this sense, The Judas Table is a logical continuation of Fear of a Unique Identity, although one might say that this sixth album is a bit quieter and more melancholic.
When saying that The Judas Table is calmer than the previous album, it doesn’t mean that all of the metal and hard rock elements have simply disappeared. The last part of ‘Stillborn Empires’, for example, is pretty heavy and direct. The same accounts for the middle passage of ‘Killer’, which actually reminds one of newer Anathema releases (specifically We’re Here Because We’re Here), and the awesome solo in the second half of ‘Can of Worms’ simply kills. Nevertheless, the overall atmosphere of The Judas Table is somehow more peaceful and more demure—when Prophecy Productions write in their promo-sheet that the album sounds as if ‘Moss might have overcome his torturing demons’, one couldn’t have said it better. Therefore, The Judas Table sounds a bit like a huge breath of relief.
Naturally, the new album also features the key elements that have accompanied the English band over the years: Mick’s singing is still as simultaneously depressing and touching as on earlier works (‘Integrity’), the melodic, dreamy, and sad guitar work has lost nothing of its charm (‘Goodbye’), Rachel Brewster’s violin still gives the music a very unique touch (‘Comrades’), and it’s still worth paying attention to the actual message that Antimatter try to convey. The lyrics are interesting and open doors for interpretation. There are also some ‘new’, or rather unusual elements to be found on The Judas Table. ‘Integrity’ opens with some interesting sounds reminding the listener of Toto’s ‘Africa’, ‘Killer’ brings back trip-hop elements, and ‘Hole’ works with female vocals.
The actual hit of the album is a track titled ‘Stillborn Empires’, which finds Moss finally nearing the peak of his songwriting skills. From the melodic and melancholic beginning to the fast-paced and heavy end of the song, ‘Stillborn Empires’ keeps the tension high and features nearly all of the trademark elements that Antimatter have to offer while still remaining catchy. It might be one of the highest praises one can give a band in this genre to be able to say that a song is catchy and memorable without being platitudinous. Also, when Moss starts singing, ‘Daddy didn’t want you and Mommy gave you pain’, there is so much real emotion in his voice that it’s hard not to share a tear for the unlucky being who had to suffer through such a situation. Antimatter have written a lot of great songs—just think about ‘The Weight of the World’ from the 2005 release Planetary Confinement—and ‘Stillborn Empires’ can easily keep up with these classics.
The one negative thing that I can say about The Judas Table is that Antimatter offer little they haven’t already done before. Sure, there are some rather unusual passages and details, but the basic pillars of their music and their sound have not changed a bit. This can of course be dangerous for any band, but Antimatter are lucky that their songwriting is rather variable in general and that, therefore, it isn’t easily predictable. The Judas Table still sounds interesting with this in mind, and it is certainly a worthy addition to the collection of any depressive or dark rock fan. However, Antimatter must take care not to release simply ‘more of the same’ with their coming albums; the sword of Damocles is hanging dangerously close over their English heads.
01) Black Eyed Man
04) Stillborn Empires
05) Little Piggy
07) Can of Worms
09) The Judas Table