A great thing about small boutique labels is the sense of curatorship. I, Voidhanger Records occupy a space for me that Profound Lore used to fill maybe five years ago. Everything on that label I can find, I will listen to, and with high expectations. If I’ve ever been looking out for an interesting new sound, I’ll raid the I, Voidhanger roster. Surprisingly, the debut of Antagoniste didn’t come to my attention through one of those raids, but an offhand recommendation from a friend. The Myth of Mankind appeared to slide beneath the radar for most people. From what I’ve seen and read, those that did hear it were divided. For the life of me, I don’t understand the controversy. The slow-burning approach to experimental black metal here has been heard before in bands like Terra Tenebrosa and Blut Aus Nord, but Antagoniste do a fine job of making it their own.
Unlike the better-known bands I’d probably compare Antagoniste with (the aforementioned pair of bands come to mind first), there isn’t the sense that these guys are locked into a single identity. At least at this point in their career, they’re exploring multiple atmospheres and approaches. The Myth of Mankind covers so many bases: atmospheric black metal (“The Demiurge”) post-metal (“The Wanderer”), even Blut Aus Nord-y industrial. The first time I listened to this album, I wasn’t consciously aware that Antagoniste were in the midst of testing out different sounds for themselves. Part of this is simply because these approaches have a tried-and-true compatibility with one another, but some of the credit also lies with the way they’ve handled the material. Some of the lighter build-ups sound almost hopeful—something you’d never hear from their more developed counterparts—but the smooth flow of the album allows these discrepancies to work.
The abundant gear-shifts on The Myth of Mankind make it somewhat difficult to peg their sound in a word or two, and for that, I’m glad. The foundation of Antagoniste is based firmly in Blut Aus Nord’s atmospheric 777 trilogy, but they’re fleshing it out in a way that allows other influences to come through. Would it be fair to call this a post-metalized equivalent to The Desanctification? While it sounds as though Antagoniste are still wading through their prospects as far as style is concerned, they have a quality execution on par with their influences. The guitars are crystal clear yet no less oppressive. The vocals, most interesting of all the band’s parts, are oft-times indecipherable in their murkiness, although they’re self-aware enough to know when a more straightforward scream is appropriate. The Myth of Mankind has all the adventurous trappings of a debut, but the delivery of a far more advanced band. With their identities still a mystery, I wouldn’t be surprised if Antagoniste turns out to be the product of musicians already-established in the French scene. Hell, maybe there’s some association with Blut Aus Nord themselves. Time, as always, will tell.
01) The Rise of the Lightbringer
02) The Barren Lands
03) The Demiurge
04) The Fall of Man
05) The Ritual
06) The Nihilist
07) The Black Sun
08) The Ubermensch
09) The Wandrer