Our ears were first stirred up by Massachusetts duo Isolated Antagonist, through their offering to the excellent compilation album 27 Tons of Metal New England, which came out last year on Bluntface Records. Their song was undoubtedly a standout proposal in, to be fair, nothing but attention grabbing artists and offerings. Now the band unleashes their new album Affirmation of Entropy; a striking proposition showing that their track on the earlier release was just an impressive scratch on the surface of the band and their sound’s depth and imagination.
Isolated Antagonist is the creative union of vocalist/lyricist Glen Mitchell and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Nate Exx Gradowski. Its seeds began with Mitchell in the blazing heat of Middle East deserts with his unit where at the urging of Gradowski, who began creating the musical landscape soon after back in the US, he began writing the background story to what would become the band’s debut album. Officially formed in 2014, Isolated Antagonist released their first EP, Engineered Audi Hallucinations the following year and also debut album, The Isolated and The Antagonist. Now pushed further in their new incitement on ears and imagination, the band’s sound is a provocative fusion of industrial metal and death metal with progressive/electronic suggestiveness; it further invigorated by the evocative entangling of raw and clean vocals.
Affirmation of Entropy continues the tale of the first album and its story concerning the last man on Earth, the lead up to that situation, and the battle for survival “on a planet that has turned against him so thoroughly that the dirt beneath his feet was even a danger.” A creative emprise from Mitchell’s own imagination rich Sci-Fi universe, it is further blossomed and broadened, as the band’s creativity and music, within the new encounter and fair to say that from the stunning artwork through to the clarity of note and emotion, the album grips ears and attention.
The scene is set with the muggy and intimidating ambience of Into the Dark. It casts the image of a hostile place with the lost ghosts of the past nagging from the background, yet it has a raw beauty bred in the sonic invention of Gradowski. A compelling and unsettling start, the instrumental piece seeps away for Void to engulf ears with its equally restraint yet portentous air. Swiftly though, it is a smothering trespass of sound around the potent growls of Mitchell but raw intensity that blossoms celestial keys and zealously prowling riffs and rhythms within its storm. Carrying a death metal like animus in sound and voice, the track menaces the senses but also opens up an oasis of shadowy elegance as clean vocals from Gradowski are cradled by charming melodies and ear warming keys. At times Numan-esque and in others Godflesh like, there is no escaping the dark majesty posing as a song working on body and psyche.
The following Trapped similarly merges predatory animosity and invasive atmospheric grace whilst again the already impressive craft and imagination of Gradowski’s sound is enhanced by the entwining extremes of the pair’s respective vocal styles. Again Gary Numan is a spice that springs out, but a scent which as all across the album, is transformed into something individual to Isolated Antagonist, and repeated swiftly in Receptor and its thrilling Cryptopsy meets Nine Inch Nails like antagonism. As in previous songs, destructive textures begets sonic calm, melodic and atmospheric tempting begets industrial volatility; it all to enthralling effect.
New Light Now Made is a sinister treat, its Fear Factory inspired stalking of ears coming with a Die Krupps like infection. It is a predator; a primal yet virulently catchy offering which grows in strength and persuasion minute by minute with exotic hues and tempestuous energies as exciting company before making way for The Archetype Defined. If its predecessor hunted the senses, this song instantly tears into the listener, infesting body and thoughts straight away with its fierce drama and volcanic sound. Of course, as shown by those before it, the song is a maelstrom of contrasting energies and sonic colours that is gloriously unpredictable and increasingly fascinating.
The spatial aired yet simultaneously intimately invasive Dark Nomad surrounds ears next, its magnetic presence soon outshone though by The Infernos Son and its emotionally gothic and sonically vampiric proposal. The song sucks adventures out of the imagination, its Type O Negative meets Sister of Mercy breath feeding on the dark emotions at its and the listener’s heart to leave the senses exhausted and emotions blissful.
The following Words Beyond Time just fails to match up to the ingenuity of its predecessor but with its rapacious character and persistent nagging of metal cultured riffs and rhythms, it only leaves thick pleasure in its wake before The Protagonist Denied hits another pinnacle for the album. Bordering on carnal in its first assault, seductive in its Celtic bagpiped exploits next, the track is irresistible, especially when merging both for progressive/industrial metal at its most instinctive and suggestive best.
The album’s title track is like a momentary summing up next. It is an atmospheric oasis giving thoughts the moment to recap in the arms of calm vocals and the acoustic prowess of guitar as a storm wells up in the background, a tempest which hungrily brews further within The Last Death. The song’s haunting ambience is the vessel for the poaching of the senses by carnivorous riffs and hooks as vocals trap ears and imagination in their suggestive cage. As compelling as it is though, the track only becomes stronger and more engrossing as synth breezes bring immersive melodies to wrap and entice ears.
Synth pop meets industrial insidiousness is the best way to describe Gather The Past, the track gnawing on the senses at one moment and flirting with them through a contagion of irresistible hooks and infection soaked melodies next. As mentioned earlier, there is a great unpredictability and bold uniting of extremes across the songs of Affirmation of Entropy, and arguably nowhere better than on this exceptional incitement, though the closing pair of Prototype for Babylon and Celestial gives a fair showing with almost matching success. The first is thrash/death metal meets eighties electro/industrial psychosis in a venomous but again often fiercely catchy intrusion whilst the closing song explores a soundscape echoing its title, if one also equipped with rabid rhythmic traps and vicious sonic hostility.
It is a magnificent end to what is quite simply an impressive and dramatically stimulating album from a band which feels as if it is still evolving; still realising their potential and not yet the band and sound they are surely destined to be. That is no bad thing as it means that Isolated Antagonist, already one exciting fresh presence within the industrial metal scene, will have plenty more major treats in store for us ahead.
Affirmation of Entropy is available from February 16th via Bluntface Records @ https://isolatedantagonist.bandcamp.com/album/affirmation-of-entropy or http://www.bluntfacerecords.com/
Pete RingMaster 14/02/2016
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