If the name Apostate or that cover art up there seems familiar to you, it may be because I wrote about this band (here) in early June. At that point, they had put up a video for a song called “The Town”, which was to appear on a five-song EP entitled Λ ♦ Λ ♦ Ø. The song and the video hooked me right in the gills, and I wondered aloud what else Apostate had in store for us on that EP.
Well, now I know, because they self-released the EP on August 3, and I finally made time to hear it this week. It fulfills the considerable promise of that first song.
The five songs are named in a way that implies a story — “The Road”, “The People”, “The Speech”, “The Rupture”, “The Town”. The EP title itself, though expressed in symbols, stands for “against all odds”. And the band’s name, at least in the dictionary definition, means someone who has abandoned, renounced, turned away from, a religion — or less commonly, a non-religious cause or belief.
There are more clues the the theme of this EP in the lyrics to the four songs that have lyrics (which are available here). Contrary to the usual meaning of “apostate”, they don’t seem to be one of the usual metal rants against religion, at least not clearly so. In fact, they could be considered a profession of belief against un-belief. They’re very well-written, and they appear to be about a specific time and place, events on a bigger scale than a mere individual’s experience. But they’re deliberately mysterious, and so they’re subject to interpretation.
The words convey a sense of triumph against fear and violence, but also weariness and regret, condemnation of self almost as much as condemnation against an un-named enemy, and a lot more. I rarely bother with song lyrics, partly because they’re usually so unimportant to an appreciation of metal (they’re usually unintelligible), and partly because when you take the time to read them, they’re so often terrible. But in this case, the music made me curious. And yes, I really am getting to the music . . . in fact, I’m there.
For those interested in a genre classification, I’d call the music progressive metalcore. Apostate’s songs are rich in beautiful (and beautifully played) melodies, but they’re harnessed to hard-driving rhythms and hardcore vehemence. What sets the EP apart from the average offerings in this field is mature, accomplished song-writing that effectively integrates these two threads of the sublime and the savage, and the band’s genuine skill as performers.
In its structure, the EP begins with a beautiful, shimmering keyboard instrumental that includes the sounds of piano and strings and builds toward something more aggressive and strident. In that respect, “The Road” is a good stage-setter, because almost every song is constructed around transitions and the dynamic interplay between prog-styled or post-rock instrumentals and explosions of butt-kicking hardcore.
The next track (and the EP’s longest one), “The People” is a prime example of this dynamism. It moves from punchy, up-tempo pneumatic riffing, a la Meshuggah, to swirling lead guitar lines to hardcore rhythms and a slamming breakdown, to a solitary guitar melody, to more pneumatic punching, to an effective synth-driven outro. The fourth track, “The Rupture”, similarly integrates disparate elements into something that’s both atmospheric and neck-snapping — though thankfully without including the tip of the hat to djent that wormed its way into “The People”.
In between those two songs is “The Speech”, in which Apostate use their own beautiful instrumental melody as a backdrop to the real star of the track — Sir Charles Chaplin’s moving and powerful speech in The Great Dictator (1940); if you’ve never seen or heard that speech as it appears in the film, this link will take you to it.
And at the end of the EP comes “The Town”, the most original and accomplished song on the EP, and one that still blows me away. It’s mainly instrumental, of a style I suppose you might call post-rock, but with a riveting explosion near the end.
Based on this EP, it’s difficult to predict in which directions Apostate may go next. They seem balanced on an edge and could tip either way, either continuing to craft prog- and post-rock-influenced metalcore or becoming even more prog-minded and experimental. Given how saturated the former genre is, I’m hoping they’ll stretch their wings even more in whatever comes next.
The EP is available as a digital download on Bandcamp for 5 Euro (a little over $6). Go here to get it. And if you’re interested in learning more about what Apostate are doing, their Facebook page is accessible via this link. Finally, in case you missed the video for “The Town”, here it is: