(DGR reviews the debut album by the Swedish group Antarktis, released earlier this month by Agonia Records.)
Sweden’s Antarktis, comprised of In Mourning, Ikhon, and Necrosavant musicians, are a project that we’ve been writing about at our humble abode for some time, albeit when they were first operating under the name Majalis. In the three years since that group’s debut EP, Cathodic Black, they have changed their name to Antarktis and settled down to write what has become their recently released debut full-length Ildlaante.
The album sees the effective tracklist from Cathodic Black doubled from three to six and the runtime similarly extended to a sweet, sweet forty-some-odd minutes of drifting, grooving, and lightly keyboard-seasoned post-metal with a light sludge element that reveals them running alongside fellow countrymen Gloson in the smoke-machine-enveloped bleakness that seems almost required of the genre.
There’s a painterly quality with which Antarktis approach the songs on Ildlaante, almost as if the band sought to evoke the woozy haze portrayed on the album’s cover whilst writing their music. The songs contained within Ildlaante are expansive, each covering quite a bit of ground length-wise, and yet musically Antarktis are perfectly okay with letting a moment be, rarely seeking to fill every second to the brim with some sort of noise.
Ildlaante differs from the group’s previous release in these aspects, bringing forth their flair for the minimalistic during certain songs more so than was apparent during the crawling movements of Cathodic Black. Since Ildlaante takes the more traditional approach of not being one massive song, though, it also allows Antarktis a little bit more breathing room to speed things up a bit instead of picking one solid through-line and sticking to that.
Songs like “Notes From The Underground” and the very early revealed “Svalbard” both keep a faster pace than what you might expect from the band, with “Notes From The Underground” containing an aggressively catchy chorus that is prone to making you forget that, yes, “Notes From The Underground” is also about nine minutes in length.
The two songs that are paired together, and the ones most reflective of their previous form — the collective “Cape Meteor” movement — still wind up being a highlight of Ildlaante as a whole. The two songs combined come in at close to twenty minutes in their own right (both around nine and a half minutes, and alongside the aforementioned “Notes From The Underground” forming a triumvirate of close to ten-minute songs), and give the listener a long and meditative journey to really drink in the atmosphere that Antarktis create on those two tracks.
“Cape Meteor Part One” has a light synth accompaniment that makes up the main melody for the two songs, and it also moves slightly faster. The two as a whole keep about the same pace as most of Ildlaante, with the first “Cape Meteor” track sounding a bit like its members’ other project In Mourning at times, and the second “Cape Meteor” song containing the dramatic and slow crawl, including one real loud final gasp of music after it seems like the song has ended for the first time. The pair is a dynamic bunch and an excellent way to close out the disc.
Ildlaante finds one solid speed and hews pretty closely to it for the fifty-plus minutes it asks of you, building a rich atmosphere to go along with its often minimalistic and occasionally fuzzed-out nature. The group create a melancholic and smoky atmosphere, amplified by frontman Daniel Jansson’s bellows propelling each song forward, with the rest of the band (Tobias Netzell and Björn Pettersson) chiming in from time-to-time to create a three-pronged vocal attack that frequently becomes one very large growl.
Antarktis are carving themselves a pretty solid niche amongst the slower-moving bands of the world, treading a very thin line that has the band grooving between doom, sludge, and post-metal all at the same time, with the light key work seasoned to taste over the top of it. With Ildlaante and the previous Cathodic Black releases to their name, the Antarktis crew are quickly proving that there is room for at least one more frozen groove act out there.