Every now and then you to get to listen to an album that is a real breath of fresh air in today’s often stagnant music scene. Allow me to introduce you to Antlered Man, a London based four piece about to release their debut album, Giftes 1 & 2. To get an idea of the Antlered Man sound, take one huge dollop of System Of A Down, throw in the scuzzy basslines of The Melvins and Neurosis, add a bit of grunge, a bit of Porcupine Tree-esque prog and top it all off with a Mike Patton garnish. Delicious.
Having carved their teeth on the live circuit with spots supporting Radio 1-botherers Lower Than Atlantis and post-rock crew And So I Watch You From Afar, the Antlered Man guys are poised on the verge of something great, and whilst they won’t take on the world by a long shot, they’re ready to give it a hell of a try. They’re also prepared to take the DIY approach, releasing and promoting the album on their own backs, putting it out on their own label Goo Grrrl Records, a brave move for such a small band.
One of the true joys of this album is even though there is a lot to take in on the first listen, it is in no way inaccessible. Yes, it’s a complex album with a lot of time signature changes and light/dark contrast, but by the second listen you’ll be humming along to the riffs and singing the choruses. Managing to make a heavy prog rock album sound catchy shows a great deal of talent. Opening track Outrages 1 Ta 3 starts with a Middle Eastern-inspired guitar display which continues to swim around the main riff creating a real atmospheric build up before the track breaks down into pure post-rock at around the three minute mark. The ability to build atmosphere and tension is another of the band’s real strong points, with the instrumental section’s sense of timing being perfect.
The schizophrenic call to arms of Platoon Of Uno is maybe the best way to sum up Antlered Man, with pummelling riffs running throughout it, only being broken up by quiet sections offering a moment’s respite. The refrain of ‘I am a man and I wanna be heard’ is arena-sized and could easily be screamed by thousands of fist pumping fans, and the ‘man’s compassion/well that’s absurd’ line couldn’t be more of a Mike Patton impression unless it was done by the man himself.
Regardless of the glorious heaviness to be found elsewhere on the album, the real ‘heaviest’ track is Schizo Tennis, where the band slow down to an almost spoken word level, as they tell a dark and disturbing story which is only amplified by the musical backing. Heavy without having to resort to drop D riffs (or riffs of any sort really), the pacing of the track couldn’t be better, and it stands out as the finest track on an album which is full of strong moments.
The only way I can think to criticise this album is that the band walk a fine line between powerful proggy post-rock and over-indulgence. Some of the longer instrumental sections feel like they could have been shortened slightly and still have had had the same effect, and a few of the tracks feel weaker when compared to the rest of the album, but this is mostly due to the band themselves setting the bar incredibly high. Giftes 1 & 2 is a fantastic album from a band that deserve great things. Support independent music, support British music, buy this album.
Antlered Man’s debut album Giftes 1 & 2 is available from March 5th.