Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: The Antikaroshi - Crushed Neocons (2009, Exile on Mainstream)

I came with good intentions. I heard some of the music from this band The Antikaroshi on their myspace and was intrigued enough to follow through to review the promo of their album, Crushed Neocons. And as with every (or most) promos, there comes a small press release with it and I’m used to the hype and exaggerating comments, but the pseudo-philosophical, patronizing and annoying notes that came with this turned me off somewhat.

That is until I listened to the album.
I’ll get back to that, but a short introduction is due. The Antikaroshi is a 3 member band from Potsdam, Germany. They formed the band in 2007 after leaving their old band (taking their name from one of that band’s songs). This album was recorded in 2008 and was released in February 2009 through Exile On Mainstream Records.

The music, despite the aforementioned annoying press release, I find to be quite appealing, well played, interesting enough for repeated listening. What I don’t understand is what is an “organic amalgamation”; what I don’t get is the fear of being labeled so much with a genre or style that the press notes go out of their way to make sure a potential reviewer doesn’t call their music “post-rock”. There’s no need to hammer in the fact that their style is a mixture, influenced by a variety of styles and bands. I can quite hear for myself, and can confirm it. While I’m not too thrilled on doing it that way, there is in fact a mixture of styles in here – punkish attitude and style (including the vocals), post-rock/indie-rock feel at times, some heavy parts (not metal-ish, though) but the end result is quite interesting and gives an impression that these 3 German musicians have found their own sound, though they seem to cover quite a lot of musical ground throughout the 9 songs here. One may think of this as a mellowed down version of punk if you will. Where the intensity is a toned down, the song become longer, varied, and a progressive approach comes into action. There is some emphasis here on creating intricate song structure; not stagnating on one pace, style and intensity levels throughout a song.

As for the playing on the album, my personal and simplistic view is that the bass playing here is pivotal to the music. There are some great lines played by the bassist. However, in some places in a few songs, while I can hear him doing interesting things, I wish the bass wouldn’t sound so muffled and thrown in the background as much as it is. It should definitely be more dominant and present in the mix (for the most part it’s fine but at times it falls back behind). In the song Pes, for instance, there’s a very good driving and energetic punk-like bass line. In other songs it gives a strong backbone and rhythmic drive and more than that, adds its own melodic line. The guitar playing is efficient with many great groovy riffs and at other places leads. The drumming is well adjusted to the changing patterns and tempos in their multi-section songs. I think that at some places it could sound more powerful (not the drumming itself, but in the mix; such as in the song Contradiction). They should definitely continue playing with effects like in the songs Cruiserwait and Baskerville and introduce this added payer into their sound.

This band sounds great on this first album of theirs and show great promise, particularly in their progressive approach on songs like Thin Line, Fistful and Downtown. The remix in the final track (the track itself is hidden further on and is quite good) is not what I have in mind as their future sound or even as a side excursion, but I’ll leave it out of this review.
I was pleasantly surprised by this release and look forward to their next release.

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