23rd October 2015 – Self-released
03. Cycle of Failure
05. A Seer’s Elegy
07. The Prescient (Part I)
08. The Prescient (Part II)
In the world of death metal, innovation is a line that can be at best a tightrope and at worst a noose. Some walk it as the fine line that it is, balancing the old and the new in a way where it’s exciting but within the boundaries of the acceptable. Others try to pull off a brand and end up hanging themselves on their own ambitions. In the terms outlined above you could say Antlion’s debut full length The Prescient is like a tightrope walk with a safety net: exciting, but at the end of the day not too risky.
From the outset a variety comparisons come to mind: Gorod; Death; The Faceless; even the groovier riffs of Between The Buried and Me – but every time one seems more prevalent than the others, Antlion defy expectations by taking a turn towards another. You have your techy riffs, progressive breaks and, probably most surprisingly, some instances of vocalist Adam Pell almost venturing into Judas Priest style high screams reminiscent of “Painkiller”. Each instrumentalist performs his part excellently, and it’s definitely one of those albums that remind you that not every single album needs to reinvent the wheel. The wheel works fine the way it is so while getting some brand new and fresh out of town strange is always fun there’s plenty of freshness left to roll out of ye olde wheel factory down the road.
Don’t get the wrong idea though: this is not old school death metal or anything too played out – it’s just that the world of tech death has been overflowing with talent in recent years, and while this does nothing to detract from the blistering performances of each member of Antlion’s travelling troupe of troubadours, it does mean that the bar for exceptional albums in the genre has been raised exponentially each year. With that said, there are parts on The Prescient where you’ll stop dead in your tracks and think “Wow, they’re really on to something here”; the piano/clean guitar break in “Hubris” is a prime example, as is the ensuing groovy riff and solo, which is in turn immediately followed by the album’s best vocal performance.
And although they have their moments of greatness, Adam Pell’s vocals are unfortunately perhaps the weakest aspect of the album. The Rob Halford-style highs mentioned earlier and a few instances of tonal screams in a similar style as Sean from Nero Di Marte are rare highlights for what is otherwise a pretty run of the mill performance for the genre. These moments of greatness point to something to expand upon on future releases, but the instrumental performances – including Pell’s own bass playing – overshadow the vocals at almost every turn. The impressiveness is especially apparent in the proggy, sometimes fusion-like breaks as well as the technical-yet-groovy riffs, both of which are prominent in “Cycle of Failure” where you can’t help but bob, bang and nod your head (sometimes all at the same time). If the band makes a few adjustments and finds a way to expand on the most interesting parts of this album they might find themselves to be essential listening for not only tech-death fans, but fans of progressive metal in general.
Antlion’s songwriting chops definitely have the potential to put a step ahead of many of their peers. The flow, build and feel of their songs is always on point; like how a great filmmaker makes you ask questions just in time for them to give you an answer, Antlion have you craving exactly what they’re about to offering just around the corner. Whether that’s a progressive clean part with some piano playing, a tasteful yet shreddy fusion solo, or a breakneck blastbeat section, Antlion have it. Another big thumbs up to Zach Ohren, whose production smartly avoids the sterile, lifeless production plaguing the scene these days and opting for a warm sound that lets the music breathe and feel alive.
The Prescient may not confuse you with futuristic landmarks and leave you wondering where exactly you got off your bus in the big city of metal genres, but what it will do is fill you with assurance that you definitely got off in a nice part of town, one that you could happily see yourself move into. Enjoy the neighbours; they’re a bit noisy but quite nice when you get to know them. An impressive debut album and a nice continuation of 2015 as the year of tech death.