To say Antre had a less than usual start to a year would be a touch of an understatement. Whilst the Nottingham black metal collective have been toiling and forging their craft in the subterranean cavities of the national underground scene for a couple of years now, the group where suddenly exposed to the harsh light of publicity after being featured in the soundtrack for Cyberpunk 2077. Even if the release of said game was an utter car crash, countless people the world over where suddenly presented with the grim and uncompromising blackened work of Antre. With that in mind, the band’s new EP Dark Spectrum couldn’t be releasing at a greater time. Not only will this appease their devoted followers, but it will also arrest those recently drawn in.
A loose concept record that explores the nature of fear, wrath, salvation and sanity with each of it’s four respective tracks, Dark Spectrum is simultaneously cavernous and claustrophobic in the way it crashes through the contortive manner of the broken psyche. It’s a grossly intimate and personal affair, especially given as the EP primarily utilises classic black metal stylistics as it’s backbone and foundation; opener ‘Through The Dead Eyes’ opens with a ghastly rasp before plunging right into blackened galloping that’s striking albeit stereotypical in nature. However, as the record as a whole plays out, Antre’s skill in incorporating sleek and subtle genre dynamism is showcased with finesse.
Throughout this uncompromising barrage of noise elements of thrash, hardcore and death metal creep in before contorting against the blackened backdrop, further intensifying the suffocating concept of mental torment. The fantastic ‘Become The Damned’ is the forefront example of this, with the track marring war-mongering black metal bloodlust with enchained barbarian hardcore heft to narrate crimson tainted rage in a manner that’s just intimating. On the other end of the spectrum, ‘Mask Of The Saviour’ see’s frontman Patrick MacDonald untangling his feelings on the concept of redemption via a passage of quiet contemplation alongside clean fretwork and ‘Cursed Existence probes the temptation of taking the plunge into the void beyond with twisted repetitive mournful mantras that mirror the swirling mind.
Yet what make’s these moments so authentic is how subtle they are. Despite the record borrowing heavily tropes from such genres, they never distract from the black metal foundation that serve as the spine of the record. Granted, there are moments where one may wish the record to probe further into the genre's being tentatively toyed with, but such experimentation is never forcibly shoehorned and is a welcome discrepancy from fellow black metal artists who clumsily delve into other genres in an attempt to break new ground.
The group’s namesake may be an old English word for a cavern, but Dark Spectrum manifests as the sonic equivalent of journeying into the labyrinthine intestines of a mind seemingly beyond repair. Inescapable once entered and filled with the putrid miasma of both decay and hope long lost, through the suffocating sonic onslaught provided one walks lost through strained synapses prior to succumbing to total fatigue and dropping to be consumed by the misery. For the majority, such a musical journey will be too disheartening to even consider, but for those seeking a new adventure in blackened anguish, Dark Spectrum is a worthy journey to embark upon.