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New Music: ANTEMASQUE – Self-titled

Antemasque

ANTEMASQUEAntemasque //

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“I Got No Remorse”
“In the Lurch”
“Drown All Your Witches”

Album Highlights: Control freak or not, Omar Rodríguez-López has certainly kept himself busy since the breakup of The Mars Volta. The former TMV bandleader/guitarist teamed up with Le Butcherettes vocalist/guitarist Teri Gender Bender and former TMV drummer Deantoni Parks to form experimental alt-rock outfit Bosnian Rainbows in 2012, and earlier this year, he joined forces with former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante and Swahili Blonde drummer Nicole Turley to release Kimono Kult’s debut EP Hiding in the Light (read our review here). While rumors of a TMV reunion surfaced in February when Rodríguez-López and former lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala started speaking to each other again after going their separate ways for a couple years, fans were eventually informed in early April that there would be no reunion, but instead, a new project from Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala dubbed ANTEMASQUE. Featuring RHCP’s Flea on bass, the rock ‘n’ roll legend is not considered to be an official member despite letting Rodríguez-López, Bixler-Zavala and former TMV drummer Dave Elitch use his recording studio and being included in the band’s teaser video that dropped three months ago.

What came out of those sessions at Flea’s studio is the groundwork that makes up the supergroup’s 10-track, self-titled debut, which fuses the frenetic punk-rock elements of Rodríguez-López’s and Bixler-Zavala’s first band, At the Drive-In, with the prog-rock roots of TMV. The album’s first single “4AM” kicks things off in a hurry, as Bixler-Zavala shouts his way through the upbeat, yet short-lived track that sees Rodríguez-López use a guitar effect reminiscent of The Cure’s Robert Smith during the song’s verse sections. The ensuing number, “I Got No Remorse”, picks up the pace even more thanks to Elitch’s drumming, making it easy to see why the ATDI comparisons will come fast and furious for ANTEMASQUE. “In the Lurch,” on the other hand, bridges the gap between progressive rock and punk rock better than any other tune on the LP, with a breakdown midway through that lets Flea’s groovy bass line shine through.

But unlike any song on the album that precedes it, “Drown All Your Witches” takes a much different approach, with Rodríguez-López exchanging his electric guitar for an acoustic one. Surprisingly enough, it stands as one of the album’s top tracks, even if Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics are still relatively cryptic, as he demonstrates in this verse: “All I ever done is hold a love as this / I’m used to just watching without a sound / On that day with our backs against the wall / Is that how you drown all your witches?” It’s not long, of course, before we’re transported back to the charging punk that rounds out the rest of Antemasque, as we come to discover with “People Forget” and “Rome Armed to the Teeth.”

Album Lowlight: As excited as ATDI and TMV fans should be to see Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala back together making music, Antemasque doesn’t come anywhere close to topping ground-breaking albums like 2000’s Relationship of Command and 2003’s De-Loused in the Comatorium that thrust both bands into the mainstream spotlight. That’s not to say that this record is completely unlistenable, but it’s far from complete. “Ride Like the Devil’s Son” has the potential to be one of the album’s best offerings, but it falls flat when the chorus kicks in. “50,000 Kilowatts,” meanwhile, serves as another departure from the punk-prog concoction that dominates most of Antemasque, but its pop/rock vibe and cookie-cutter formula sounds rather contrived. On the whole, it’s hard to ascertain what the band’s identity truly is, as it mixes prog, punk and alt-rock over the course of just 35 minutes.

Takeaway: Although fans of TMV will likely find Antemasque too straight-forward for their liking, more traditional punk enthusiasts may be able to get behind what Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala have put together here. It’s worth nothing that Elitch’s work on the skins is absolutely exquisite throughout, driving the music forward while also lying back at certain times when it’s appropriate. There’s no doubt that Rodríguez-López, Bixler-Zavala and Elitch are all talented musicians, but you’ll want to keep your expectations to a minimum before hitting the play button.

~Josh Herwitt


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