Review Summary: A viciously fast, hateful, sonic assault that is undeserving of the hate that it gets. It is by no means blazing new trails, but that doesn't stop it from being a worthwhile listen for Black Metal fans who are tired of wallowing in self-pity.
Antaeus have been sleazing around the depths of the French underground scene since 1994 spewing forth a particularly oppressive and hateful brand of raw black metal. After releasing a handful of demos, their aptly titled full length debut "Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan" dropped at the turn of the millennium generating little acclaim and a small cult-following. "Blood Libels", their most recent effort, is arguably even less well-known and apparently quite disliked by much of the Sputnik community according to the (shocking!) 2.1 rating it has received. Now, I will concede that the proverbial black-metal pool is already diluted with enough bland, derivative, second-wave clone nonsense to justify close scrutiny for an outfit having the audacity to actually call an album; "Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan". Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Antaeus are typically lumped into the 'Dilutive Solvent' category without much of a second thought. However, with "Blood Libels" Antaeus have proven themselves worthy of that second look with an album so aggressive I couldn’t even listen all the way through it on my first run.
I actually came across "Blood Libels" years ago while I was first establishing a taste for black metal. I downloaded it on a lark and on my virgin spin found it seared my cochlea in the same way habanero curry sears the colon. As such, I ignored it for years, and yet remained strangely drawn to it. Back in a phase of seeking out intensely raw, bare bones BM, having grown rather tired of the never ending parade of Xasthur paint-by-numbers 'depressive' albums I am forced to sift through, I decided to reintroduce myself to Antaeus.
Great Gilligan, this is sh1t is ferocious! It is the typical commotion crafted by buzzsaw guitars, brain-rattling snare raps and shrieked vocals but something feels undeniably genuine about it. The vocals are uncharacteristically audible, almost having a death metal feel to them at times and the riffs are excellent. Fast, scorching, discordant power chords that approach the familiar realm of second-wave worship without ever emulating it too closely. I am opening myself up for a ***-storm here but think "Marduk" if they were cool. The production quality really drives the grittiness to the forefront. While far from 'clean' all the elements are thrust unabashedly right down your throat. Instead of trying to hide mediocre riffs behind a wall reverb and distortion and calling it atmospheric, Antaeus force you to choke on their audio-bile. That was one of the driving factors that turned me off of this album those many moons ago; there is just nowhere to hide or gather a moments respite throughout the entire play-time. Sure, the lyrical content and subject matter has been done to death, I understand that, but from a musical standpoint "Blood Libels" remains an abrasive cut above. Seriously, Nokturnal Mortem gets undeserved praise in the same way this record gets undeserved hate!
Unlike some of the previous BM albums I have reviewed (re: Pagan Hellfire, Bestial Mockery, re:re: Shameless self-promotion) which either maintain a sense of majesty or, dare I say it, fun, "Blood Libels" is just plain hateful! The misanthropy present on this album helps lend itself legitimacy by staying away from gimmicky National Socialist posturing, or pointless keyboard-driven atmospherics. And while that may leave it open to the 'generic' criticism, some bands manage to pull off an interesting brand of generic without a hitch. While other notable contemporaries still come off sounding like great versions of older bands, "Blood Libels" garners extra credibility for managing to stay unique.