New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but it’s also one of the most isolated. This isolation provides for a unique lifestyle and a cultural experience that offers seemingly endless potential for artistic inspiration, but it also presents its own set of problems and limitations, not the least of which is the ability to communicate with the outside world. This duality is omnipresent on kiwi hardcore giants Antagonist A.D’s crushing new record Haunt Me As I Roam.
A relentless and uncompromising record, Haunt Me As I Roam burns with the intensity of a wildfire, fuelled by a rage that has been internalised for too long. Bleak intro Cold builds discomforting tension, before vocalist Crocker’s ferocious roar joins forces with a pounding metalcore rhythm on Coffin Keeper to unleash a lifetime’s worth of frustration.
Crocker’s opening lines, “You dig your hole, five days a week,” set the tone of a deafening rallying cry against the status quo of modern Western existence. Its abrupt ending provides a fitting segue to Haunt Me As I Roam, a track which incorporates a caustic guest vocal by The Amity Affliction’s Ahren Stringer to deliver a chaotic yet cathartic reflection on the impact of a friend’s suicide. Heartfelt and harrowing, every second feels essential, and it sits alongside album closer and lead single For Anyone Who Hurts as Antagonist A.D’s most vital song yet.
While many of the demons exorcised on Haunt Me As I Roam are deeply personal, struggle is a universal language and guest vocals abound, with spirited contributions by J.J Peters of Deez Nuts (Dog’s Blood), Sam Carter of Architects (You’re Killing It (Downer)) and Andrew Neufeld of Comeback Kid (Wanderlust) adding yet another layer of depth on what is the band’s most progressive record to date.
Neufeld’s turn is particularly impressive, with his melodic-hardcore style meshing with Crocker’s harsher delivery for Wanderlust‘s invigorating call to arms. Their voices lock together to deliver the chorus, “I’m staring at the sun, screaming out my lungs,” and the impact is overwhelming.
Like Antagonist A.D’s isolated homeland, hardcore can be restrictive at times, and much of Haunt Me As I Roam‘s impact can be attributed to the band’s ability to inject fresh ideas into a tried-and-true formula. While guitars chug and mosh-inducing rhythms abound, they do so amidst an atmospheric blend of guitar harmonies, clean vocals and ambience, providing a musical counterpoint to the hellfire. Will Putney’s (The Acacia Strain, The Amity Affliction) production is truly next level and, combined with artwork by Jacob Bannon (Converge) and Antagonist A.D’s performance, it results in a world-class package.
A decade into their career, Antagonist A.D are ready to overcome the limitations imposed upon their art, by themselves, their genre or their geographic location. Haunt Me As I Roam is their conduit to do so. Look out world, Antagonist A.D are on the march and the standard has been set for hardcore in 2015.