I’ve often wondered about the importance of a band’s name. Would Death be as big, or produced the same groundbreaking music, if they’d named themselves Erotic Diarrhea Monster? Would Kreator have become the thrash legends they did if they instead called themselves Pee Wee’s Scrotal Shitstorm? The world may never know, but it certainly seems having a more common and accessible name puts pressure on a band to produce better music. Case in point: Antichrist, a Peruvian quartet originally formed in 2004 and later reactivated in 2012. Falling loosely under the “doom-death” umbrella, the group have released a slew of demos in recent years all leading up to this Pax Moriendi debut. But with three other active metal bands currently bearing the “Antichrist” name, do these Satanic South Americans truly do justice to our Great Dark Overlord?
They sure do, and just like ol’ Beelzebub himself, there’s more up their sleeve than meets the eye. Building from a substrate of deep gurgly vocals, dry crushing guitars, and sluggish buzzing chords, Antichrist are my favorite type of doom band: one that recognizes the limitations of the genre and does everything they can to keep it interesting. Take the obvious Skepticism influence, where background choirs and atmospheric synths are added to the slower moments to create a rich gothic aura. Likewise, rather than bloating these five tracks with empty reverberating chords, Antichrist often lock into monolithic marching chugs that bring welcome variety. Opener “Forgotten in Nameless Suffering” shows this from the start, hitting hard with these chugs before moving into a quick crunchy riff and climaxing with a stop-start rhythm that sounds like doom metal’s version of a breakdown. Concluding with a brief spoken word, it’s a terrific opener whose 9 minutes feel like half that.
As Pax continues, it’s clear the variety doesn’t end here. Follow-up “Obscurantism” combines this doom metal foundation with hammering beats and lurching riffs that sound like the heaviest version of Deicide imaginable. The band even work in a fucking blastbeat at one point, not to mention a strained melodic riff that recalls old My Dying Bride. “In the Dark and Mournful Corner of Memory” adds more new elements, including Incantation-style tremolos tuned so low they’ll probably make your downstairs neighbors evacuate their bowels. Both “Corner” and closer “You Will Never See Sun Light” also pull a trick from the Disembowelment playbook by featuring spacey clean picking over slow distorted chords, a move that Antichrist wield just as effectively as Inverloch did two years ago.
As the Teitanblood-esque “Screams and Lamentations Drowned” hammers home, it’s obvious the band’s biggest strengths lie in their diverse rhythms and guitar-work. Yet at the same time, the songwriting is remarkably smooth and mature for a debut, and the production offers enough heft and space to let these 44 minutes truly come alive. The guitars are also imbued with a delightfully dry, buzzy, and earthy tone, making these riffs smolder like Dante’s Inferno. That’s not to say there aren’t issues – Pax is noticeably absent any eerie leads, and while hardly a necessity, their inclusion could have heightened the emotional impact and added even more variety. In fact, they would have been perfect for aforementioned closer “Sun Light,” whose ending and piano outro feels like an anticlimactic finish after the strong material featured elsewhere on the album.
Yet at the end of the day, that feels like a quibble. On the whole, Pax is an incredibly accomplished and enjoyable debut, one that takes influence from classic acts while still managing to feel dynamic and wholly original. For someone often reluctant to dip his toes in the waters ov doom these days, Antichrist have produced an album so consistently engaging I may just start throwing elbows with Grymm to snag promo in the future. Ultimately, those looking for a funeral doom version of Winter that combines Skepticism’s synths, Disembowelment’s clean picking, and Incantation’s cavernous death metal into a cohesive whole need search no longer. Let it be known: Antichrist is one band worthy of the Devil’s name.