Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: November 10th, 2014 via Nadie Sound
Hey everybody! Remember that big news you heard earlier this year about a quasi-Mars Volta reunion featuring Flea on bass? Rejoice as the album will finally be released, and it’s great! After releasing it online earlier this summer, only to be immediately taken down, Antemasque’s self-titled album, Antemasque, will be released digitally on November 10th, with physical copies hitting stores later in this month.
Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, both from The Mars Volta, have buried the hatchet, reforming since their split in 2013. They are joined with acclaimed drummer Dave Elitch of Killer Be Killed and The Mars Volta (2009-2010) and although he is not a formal member of the band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea is rockin’ the bass on the album. I remember hearing the lead single, “4AM”, earlier this year and getting excited over this collaboration, but was disappointed that the album was delayed by months. I am happy to report that Antemasque lives up to my own personal hype, making it worth the wait.
As you would expect from this cast of musicians, Antemasque is a pure alternative rock album, reminiscent of the 90’s California alt rock scene, while bringing a modern edge to the music. Omar’s guitar work strikes rich chords, often with a thin surf rock tone, however at other times it can be almost ambient, but this doesn’t stop him from delivering an edgy solo when he chooses to. Cedric’s voice remains as powerful as ever; he is able to flip between mellow, to softer, to aggressive tones, belting it out like it’s nothing to him. Dave’s drums drive the songs forward with his bombastic grooves and technical ability, while Flea’s contributions on bass add interesting rhythmic and harmonic textures. The songs are very well crafted; the band achieved a more mainstream alternative rock sound, while still managing to use effects and groove changes to create a musical experience which is truly unique. The music feels like it’s been shot up with adrenaline: each song is driven by an edgy, punk rock, in your face style, giving the album a sense of high octane energy, which is bound to please any rocker.
The album kicks off with “4AM”. The song is a nice mixture of almost calming, smooth verses, followed by heavier choruses, and really amps up at the bridge, and then an altered chorus which continues the climax until the ending. The song sets a trend that the band uses throughout the album: mellow, yet driven, verses, which escalate to hard hitting choruses. This formula adds a sense of excitement and climax to the album. The album jumps right into “I Got No Remorse” and “Ride Like The Devil’s Son”, both equally hard hitting and heavy songs. As Antemasque progresses the album expands stylistically, while continuing down a heavy path, the band starts to incorporate different textures and shifts the groove around mid-song. This can be heard in the middle of “In The Lurch” and the transitions from verse to chorus in “People Forget”. The bands use of chords is also very unique and interesting to listen to. The band plays around with dissonance quite often creating tension which is later released, often through the use of rich, colorful chords and harmonies.
Antemasque grooves just as hard as it rocks, and I find it very difficult to pick a favorite song. Each song seems to have a special moment which catches me off guard and wow’s me. From the funky breakdown in “In The Lurch”, the deep shuffle and bass groove of “People Forget”, the acoustic bounce of “Drown All Your Witches”, the dark textures of “Providence”, or the dissonance set in “Rome Armed To The Teeth”, Antemasque is a milestone of an album for what modern alternative rock can be. My only issue with the album is its length; its ten songs clock in at just over half an hour. It is certainly beautiful music, but there is just not enough of it, I want more! I suppose that’s a compliment for the band, wrapped in my discontent. I really do hope that after their current tour, Antemasque will continue to write and release music, breaking free of the dreaded trend of super groups releasing only one album.
As I mentioned earlier, the wait for the long delayed album was disappointing, but I was relieved to see that the album I had hyped up in my head did not exceed Antemasque, rather I was pleasantly surprised at how the songs were so well crafted and performed, and how they brought their own unique flavor to a variety of styles. If anything, my expectations were surpassed. To fans of The Mars Volta, Antemasque seems like a logical step in Cedric and Omar’s musical progression. It really is great to have the two working together again. Antemasque is many things: it’s trippy, it’s punk, it’s funky, and it’s edgy. Overall Antemasque makes for an explosive listening experience. Not many bands could create one album which covers so much stylistic ground, without sacrificing their own signature approach to the music.
Catch Antemasque at the MOD Club in Toronto on November 14th!
2: I Got No Remorse
3: Ride Like The Devil’s Son
4: In The Lurch
5: 50,000 Kilowatts
6: Momento Mori
7: Drown All Your Witches
9: People Forget
10: Rome Armed To The Teeth