Jan 282013

(In this post, guest writer Graffiti Petey provides a look back at California’s Antagony.)

Metalhead A: “Suicide Silence. White Chapel. All Shall Perish. Job for a Cowboy.” 
Metalhead B: “Yup, heard of all these bands.” 
A: “How about Despised Icon? Animosity?” 
B: “Yeah, I think I remember them.”
A: “Okay, what about ANTAGONY?”
B: “Who???”

Chances are if you are reading this you have never heard about the seminal Bay Area-based metal band–Antagony (circa 1999-2009). Their story is a tragic account of bad timing and bad luck. Why is this band still relevant? Well, it’s been almost 4 years since they disbanded but their loyal fanbase is still passionate about what they did and what they could have been. To put it simply: Antagony mixed elements of Death/Grind and Hardcore before all of the aforementioned bands. Now you know this. If you are familiar with Hollywood tragedies, a good analogy would be River Phoenix: an experienced actor who influenced his generation but never quite hit stardom. After his untimely death–fellow actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Keanu Reeves, and his brother Joaquin have gone on to super-stardom. This is the pattern we’ll see with Antagony.

Reading over Antagony’s past members is like reading a who’s who in the modern metal scene. The thirteen former members of Antagony have gone on to such bands as Oblivion, All Shall Perish, Hacksaw to the Throat, Suffokate, Oblige, Misericordiam, and more. You may be asking yourselves—how did all of these bands gain more recognition than their originator? The answer to that is a fateful combination of bad luck and bad timing, as we’ll discuss during the chronological analysis of the band history.

The single biggest factor that destroyed this band’s potential to hit the big time was lack of consistency. If you have a look at their Facebook page you can see that the band went through eleven lineup changes. Eleven. Most bands that go through a single lineup change eventually break up. This constant reforming of a unit halts progress and can drastically change the chemistry of a band.

For a good example of how the band sounded at an early stage here is their rendition of Sepultura’s “Propaganda”. Notice how they mix elements of Death/Grind and Hardcore at such an early point in the genre (2000). This theme of mixing is going to become a prominent part in their musical development.

The next example is a refined recording of a song they wrote and released that same year - “End of the Circle”. The song jumps from Death Metal to breakdowns to Slam Metal to crazy Grind. The vocals are either high-pitched screaming or death growled. You can hear the true genesis of what would become dubbed as “Deathcore“—a hugely successful metal genre that has sparked hundreds of copycat bands across the world. And who gets credit for this genre? Unfortunately, not Antagony.

Their first album, See Through These Eyes, was released in 2001. Founder/lead singer/songwriter of the band, Nick Vasallo, says the album was “well praised by critics, fans, and fellow bands.” Unfortunately, most of the online review sites are extinct, but this single review survived. The author described the album as “Death-Grind [and Hardcore] diversity with very high screaming intermixed with pretty deep guttural roars..well-done and composed with Metal intricate song structures.” Sound familiar? These are the major tenets of the Deathcore genre.

Following the release of See…, the group went on a U.S. tour to promote the album. They brought along supporting acts End of All and Boof. And here comes the next factor that greatly affected Antagony’s potential public success: bad timing. Following the successful tour — founding members Ben Orum and Carlos Saldana left the group. Ben Orum joined members of Boof and End of All to form the hugely successful deathcore band All Shall Perish. When I asked Vasallo about his thoughts on that he replied with: “perfect timing and hard work on their part. I’m extremely proud of them.” In this author’s opinion, it doesn’t take a genius to see — that it would have been a painful thing to witness your friends going on to become highly successful while you struggle to rebuild a band that planted the seed to a whole movement.

Vasallo was finally able to rebuild the band and, 4 years later (an eternity in today’s music scene) in 2005, Antagony released Rebirth – their most critically-acclaimed album to date. It received a 8.6/10 from MetalReview.com, higher than any Deathcore release. It was deemed more “epic” and something that “stood apart” from the other bands of the genre by Teeth of the Divine, and that reviewer even stated “Abacus Recordings, Lifeforce, Nuclear Blast and Metal Blade” should sign them immediately. Bands like Last House on the Left have called this album the “most influential album” of the genre. So…what happened? What went wrong?

IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN RELEASED IN 2002 when the material was being written!!! My belief is that if Antagony had not experienced the 3 lineup changes in between See Through These Eyes and Rebirth this article would not need to be written. Because Antagony would have made it. They would be among the so-called “fathers of Deathcore.” Timing is everything.

I leave you now with Antagony’s final album, Days of Night, released by Deepsend Records in 2008. Nick Vasallo calls it “my favorite of all the albums. It summarizes everything I’ve had to say in that band. I hate the label Deathcore and this was a conscious attempt to distance us from that whole scene.” It’s safe to say you probably have never heard this album either. Lucky for you it is up for streaming (along with their whole discography!) on their Bandcamp page. The band has recently released all of their recordings–both unreleased and previously released “for the fans due to popular demand.” I highly recommend you download all of their music and take a moment to listen to the true fathers of Deathcore, despite how the band may feel about that label.

There is a happy ending though! There is talk of a 10-year documentary of the band that chronicles their entire existence. Also, founding members of Antagony — Nick Vasallo and Ben Orum — are together again in the fast-rising death metal group Oblivion. Vasallo also became a classical music composer and professor; you can check out his solo work at nickvasallo.com

YouTube videos:

17 Responses to “ANTAGONY – Why you need to know this band…”

  1. All that name-dropping at the beginning was enough to convince me I didn’t need to know anything about this band.

    So, you saved me time. I thank you for that.

    • BlackMtlJack says:

      You’re missing out then…Antagony is better than all those bands. Way more emotion

      • SurgicalBrute says:

        A Neanderthal smacking two rocks together is better than all those bands

        ..this is like being the worlds fastest AMC Pacer

      • This reference is going to date me, but I’ve also heard people say that Christina Aguilera is way better than Brittney Spears.

        I want to say, though, that I don’t mean this in an asshole kind of way. I was just commenting that the very same words which draw some readers in are enough to signal to others that we should stay away.

        • BlackMtlJack says:

          Yes, fair enough. Honestly, Antagony sounds a lot different than those bands. Kind of like how Slayer sounds different than Metallica.

  2. xBenx says:

    Great band, good post!

  3. The Man in Orange says:

    Haven’t heard these guys in a long long time. Glad to see they finally got some recognition for their music.

  4. Joey says:

    I’ve seen this band some many times and listened to all their music. So much respect for Antagony. Antagony, All Shall Perish and Hacksaw to the Throat, in my opinion, were the best things to ever happen to the Bay Area metal scene.

  5. grangehollaback says:

    It’s also worth checking out the last YFH album, right before they switched names. I think it was called the Art of Hating…

  6. davido14@yahoo.com says:

    I dont really hear the emotion music. Sounds like generic dethcore. Some grooves that arent terrible, but for the most part. I dont really hear anything that captures me. If I saw them live, Id like it. Maybe when they get better recordings..but for now, nah

  7. Alexantagony says:

    Ok so I know this sounds like a fricken public service announcement but oh well. I have to say that Antagony changed my life. I’ll never forget the day in spring of 2004 my freshman year of high school when Brad Morgan from Eviscerated came up to me at lunch and showed me these guys called Antagony. I thought who the hell are these guys with crying babies and duffel bags being unzipped and people screaming? The music grew on me and was my introduction to the local scene. I’d never felt energy like that before in my life.
    Antagony got me through all the BS that high school can bring to a metal kid. I’ll never forget seeing Antagony when they came back for the first time at the Danville Grange. Finally they played and were shut down by Danville PD, and even though the rest of the band stopped playing Justin kept beating the crap out of his drums. Other cool shows included Imusicast which was kinda the laughing stock of venues among my friends at the time it was still cool to go see Antagony play there. There was the Santa Cruz house show were Antagony played and behind them were these beans that I guess the people who lived there had pulled out of turds and put up in ziplock bags in the window….only metal heads lol. The Chop Shop in Oakland was a cool show as well as Colorblind Studios in Concord when they played with Eviscerated. I’ll also never forget when me and Joey were last in line at Gilman and we would have never made it in but I hit up Carlos and he got us rite in front. We also can’t forget about the Pound in SF when they played with Brujeria, this Mexican dude was so shitty out in front and was banging his head on that sliding door and finally the bouncers came out and chased him into the bushes lol. I also got to go up on stage with Carlos at that Pound show and do part of End of the Circle which I was so stoked on. There are probably more shows I’m forgetting to mention but whatever it’s hella late and I’m tired haha.
    As I mentioned Antagony made a huge positive impact on my life . The guys from Antagony were always so friendly and I always remember them calling for their number one fan to come headbang in the front and I’d push my way through to go handle some business :) After their drummer Justin Hughes heard how much I liked their early music he mailed me a bunch of CD’s that had even YFH recordings on them. Antagony is very well known band here in the bay, some dude even stopped his car when he saw my “You create this pain” shirt to ask me if Carlos and the guys were still playing. Even during high school my friends found me a copies of Painting in Grey and Expect the Worst in a thrift store and I almost crapped myself when he handed them to me, To this day I still turn on Antagony/YFH and still get just as stoked as the first time I heard them 9 years ago. I will always be their number one fan with the tatt to prove it. That being said, Carlos when are you going to be booking the next show? ;)

  8. Dave says:

    I’m picking up so much change right now.

  9. GhettoArt says:

    True fathers of deathcore!

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