Co-founded by two members of In Mourning, this is Antarktis’s debut album. The first things that struck me about were its heaviness and its similarity to Cult of Luna by virtue of its long and expansive chords, broken up by a patient post-metal build up. In fact I would go so far as to say that the impressive “Aurora” is almost indistinguishable from the heavy end of Cult of Luna’s “Salvation” album in its style and delivery.
As I experienced the harshness of “Svalbard”, I went to check Antarktis’s site for some clues about their inspiration. Well, they recognise that their music comprises “original sludge/post metal landscapes”. That’s exactly what it is. An element of eeriness is introduced but all the time there is that world where seemingly impenetrable dark layers transform into a kind of epic majesty. “Notes from Underground” starts funereally. The familiar desperate rasping cries ring out. The track plods on hypnotically, but in a way that whilst we’re left in no doubt that we’re in a dark place, there is transformation and development through the thick clouds that it represents. Instrumentally it is rich and expressive so although it’s familiar territory, it’s no less engaging or impressive. Thumping sinister signals give way to grandiose epic soundscapes. All the while it’s ferocious. The drum is clear and lacking in compromise. Layers of further darkness enter the fray as “Ildaante” moves forward ominously. The title track has all this, and plays with our senses as it progresses more quietly and sensitively than what we’re used to, providing a good counter-balance. Timing is all important, and Antarktis are good at this, allowing themselves time to develop passages and atmospheres, and not frustratingly rushing onto the next idea without invading our senses first. An electronic accompaniment kicks off “Cape Meteor Pt 1” but the pattern is essentially the same. And to be honest I didn’t think that Part 1 took us anywhere new or inspiring. Part 2 however starts eerily with gently rolling instrumental mists – much more evocative in its deep reflections. Then out of the perennial gloom rings an explosion, screams and a grand ending. And that’s our lot.
These six slabs of similar length take us into familiar post metal territory. In fact I’d so so far as to say that “Ildlaante” is like Cult of Luna mark 2. I liked very much its power and strength, and the subtle development of the dark messages within. While worked off a template, Antarktis do manage to add value to an established genre.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)