Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Antichrisis - Foxfire (2020)

Country: Germany
Style: Gothic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Sep 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Metal Archives | Official Website

I remember Antichrisis, not from the eighties for a change, as they weren't formed until 1995 but from the turn of the millenium. I came in on their second album, A Legacy of Love in 1998, and particularly enjoyed the third, Perfume, in 2001. I used Hole in My Head in a mixtape. Remember them?

Well, Antichrisis were a band back then, even if Moonshadow was clearly in charge. Nowadays they're a duo, Moonshadow renamed to Sid but now contributing all the instrumentation, much of which is electronic, and the male vocals, which take the lead on at least half of the songs here. The other name is Ayuma; Antichrisis used to change the female lead up on every album, but here, if I'm not mistaken, she becomes the first to return for a second, eight years after her first, Not Fade Away in 2012.

Like Not Fade Away, this is a very generous album, with fifteen songs racking up almost 72 minutes, a whisker under the 73 that the prior album ran. The quality is pretty consistent and I wouldn't call any of them filler, though the album as a whole wouldn't have been hurt had a couple been shifted out to become B sides.

After an atmospheric intro, they start very well indeed, with Romeo one of the album's highlights; it's a good old fashioned gothic rock song with a catchy chorus. This album is very much looking back in time, to the early days of goth in the early eighties, when pop music, especially in the UK, got interesting for quite a while and entire genres were born apparently out of whole cloth. There were points here that reminded me of artists and bands as varied as Kate Bush, Beltane Fire and Mike Oldfield.

About the only influence I felt from earlier is David Bowie, and I mean early pre-glam Bowie. It wasn't just the title of Gravity on Mars that brought him to mind. Outside of that one, it's all early eighties and not a lot of bringing anything up to date. It feels like a nostalgic album. Sid has called it a review of his life thus far but, if that's what it is, it's a rather focused slice of that life.

For a while, vocal duties alternate. Sid sings Romeo, but Ayuma sings Gravity on Mars, a dreamy pop song with prominent fiddle and a vocal that floats around my speakers. Sid is back for Last Night, an old school goth song with a perky beat. Then it's Ayuma, with some really inventive, characterful vocals, on No Going Back, the most overtly Kate Bush influenced song. However, after the baton passes back to Sid for a keyboard heavy Is Anybody There?, he keeps it for a while and the album settles down.

I think that first clump of half a dozen tracks are the strongest here, but there's still interesting stuff to be found in the next four. After the War is beat-heavy, presumably deliberately aiming for the army on the march feel; so is St. Materiana, which is more alternative than goth, reminding me rather a lot of Beltane Fire, and Close Hauled, easily the longest song on the album at eight minutes on the dot, plays with that martial beat again at points.

She Lay Waiting is underwhelming at this point on the album, but it sounds good enough and it may well be one of those sleepers that turns out to be a future favourite when the catchier material fades. I was less impressed with Forever and a Day, with some clumsy scansion with the title. My OCD reacts heavily to things like that. The Night is Still Young is decent too, like an alternative single from the early eighties by a band who came out of nowhere, made us notice them, and promptly split up.

Et in Arcadia Ego is the late highlight for me, with another inventive Ayuma vocal. I do like this band a little more when she's singing. Sid sounds good, but he also sounds like a lot of other singers and I don't get that much with Ayuma. She sounds like Ayuma and this song, along with No Going Back and Gravity on Mars, are easily my favourites here, along with Sid's Romeo.

The album ends with yet another return to Goodbye to Jane, not a Slade cover but a new version of a song from their debut album, Cantara Anachoreta, that's shown up elsewhere too. Sid comes back to it a lot. He does so here because there's a new sequel song, Jane's Redemption. This is tough stuff, about a child escaping sexual abuse through suicide, but the sequel tempers it a little by making the ending a bit more about escape and a bit less about suicide. We leave it a bit happier than we used to.

I'm happy I got to hear another Antichrisis album and this tells me that I really should check out Not Fade Away, which I haven't heard. Sid says that the style will change for the next album, whenever that shows up, so I'm intrigued about that too. In the meantime, Ayuma has a solo album from 2018 that I plan to find too, called Unorthodox.

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