As all writers are aware, a first draft is not always your greatest work. Sometimes it just requires you to put your thoughts on paper or get out your original idea then revisit it another time and mold it into something better. This often means a few extra passes in order to get it just right. The problem is that not everybody does that, and that’s a huge failing for Thy Antichrist. While some fans might find things in the band they like, there are a lot of ideas presented in their latest album that are not entirely thought through.
Originally hailing from Colombia, Thy Antichrist is a self-described blackened death metal band originally formed by Andres Vargas, AKA Antichrist 666. The band moved to Texas in 2011 in order to catch the attention of a wider audience. They have clearly jumped in popularity with their invite to the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise in 2015. They seem to be a band on the up and up.
But then comes this year’s Wrath of the Beast. Looking at the band and this record, you would think of black and death metal. Vargas’ own variation on corpse paint is a unique look of white striped with black contour lines. The album cover of a giant shrouded in clouds above a city certainly looks like black metal imagery. Then you turn on the record and the idea slowly comes apart at the seams.
While there are certainly black influences on the record, there does not seem to be any kind of uniformity to the sound. It sounds more like black metal consultants were brought in to add flavor to different styles. “A World Burnt To Ashes” sounds like a blackened metalcore song with its tight drum production and compressed guitars. “The Great Beast” is a mainstream thrash song with black stylings on the vocals and lyrical content.
It would be difficult to mention this pattern on the record without bringing up the prime offender, the first single “Metal to the Bone.” Certainly it’s fair to say that metal has always had a kind of self-awareness to it. Usually this is given form in more accessible metal like power or thrash or the traditional groups. Other forms have a much more serious quality to what they create which is why it seems so odd for a band like Thy Antichrist to write a song about worshipping heavy metal and being metal. While black metal bands always publicly fight over things like that, it’s rarely a part of their actual music. It just seems so antithetic and against type. It’s as though AC/DC were trying to sound like a black metal band without abandoning their standard lyric formula. Furthermore, the lyrics are so sophomoric that it’s hard to know who wrote the song, a grown man or a 13 year old who just discovered Black Sabbath.
That’s not to say that all parts of this record are like that. There are some interesting songs on this record that try to do new things with the black metal sound. Songs like “No Place Like Hell,” “Skeletons of Disgrace,” and “Nightmares” actually have that traditional sound we all know though they are repackaging it in a form that could be more palatable to an audience. You won’t find any 10 minute long multi-part songs on this black metal record nor will you see the post-metal style of songwriting. Their songwriting style is more traditional with a verse-chorus kind of organization. Within those songs, there are a lot of recognizable themes like long sections of blast beat drumming with tremolo picking from the band. Antichrist 666 has a unique vocal style of a choked screech that is possibly the only one of its kind. They also use folk in an interesting way opting for the Spanish and flamenco style acoustic playing of their homeland to augment some songs.
This record is trying to present black metal in a new way to an audience. The problem is that black metal started inherently from a position of doing taboo things that turn off a lot of people. Thy Antichrist is trying to make the inaccessible accessible to an audience. What it ends up sounding like is a band trying to be something they aren’t. Everything about this record would give the listener a certain expectation of what it should sound like, but it fails to come through on those fronts. It isn’t a bad record because it’s not trve or something like that. That would be against the entire idea of doing things new. The problem is that in trying to be something they aren’t, the record has no soul. It doesn’t feel like true individual musical expression. It feels like a power metal band that doesn’t want to fit into that genre. The band is good at infusing power metal with blackened influences, and they should really embrace that. There’s a lack of bands trying to make that sound, and Thy Antichrist could be the first if only they would accept the mantle.
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