Live Review: An Electric Evening of Antimatter @ The Black Heart (25/11/18)

Dark ambient prog-rock band Antimatter was composed in 1998 by Anathema bassist Duncan Patterson and Mick Moss, who would write the songs each on their own and then compile them into an album. After releasing the first three albums, ‘Saviour’ (2001), ‘Lights Out’ (2003) and ‘Planetary Confinement’ (2005), the forming duo was disbanded in 2005 when Patterson left the band; he went on to form the acoustic-folk project Íon. Nevertheless, Mick Moss continued, releasing four more albums up to this day: ‘Leaving Eden’ (2007) -which includes a guest appearance on the lead guitar and piano from Anathema’s Danny Cavanagh-, ‘Fear of a Unique Identity’ (2012), ‘The Judas Table’ (2015) and the latest ‘Black Market Enlightenment’ (2018), which is not even three weeks old yet. Anathema, Katatonia and Eddie Vedder (Mick Moss’ vocal range is remarkably analogous) fans are surely going to enjoy Antimatter’s sound.

Audience mix and wee venue: Camden Town’s The Black Heart, the chosen venue for Antimatter’s performance, is a very gloomy and tight hall on top of the main pub. Its atmosphere is warm and intimate. One would say that it is the perfect scene for an act like Antimatter, but on the other hand, the 150 capacity was definitely scarce for Moss’ potent 20-year-old electro-rock group. The group of concert-goers was an interesting mix of ages -it ranged from fans in their twenties rocking Anathema & Opeth t-shirts to fans in their fifties attiring Pink Floyd merch- and nationalities, as quite a few of the present were speaking diverse languages. At five minutes to nine, the band -consisting of Mick Moss on vocals and guitar, Dave Hall on a second guitar, Ste Hughes on bass and Fab Regmann on drums- came on stage. Mick had some trouble with his in-ear monitors. ‘I’ve got nothin’ in my ear!’, he brought out. ‘If I am forced to tell jokes to pass the time [whilst they fixed this issue], half the audience is gonna leave!’

The London enlightenment blossoms: ‘The Third Arm’ (Black Market Enlightenment, 2018) gave rise to the concert. Mick Moss’ magnetically alluring voice caught your attention from the very beginning. It was a gradually intense first track, whose ruthless synth and deranged green lasers successfully set up the structure of the show. The lasers then widened up and turned purple for ‘Stillborn Empires’ (The Judas Table, 2015). Setting off simplistic over four constant keyboard notes, which repeated themselves throughout to the end, it was a smart way to cool down after such an ardent beginning. Five minutes into the song, after a few seconds of hush, a magnificent plot twist arose: a mighty reprise directed by the charming feminine voice (pre-recorded) of Jenny O’Connor, in the same style of Clare Torry’s terrific vocal solo at Pink Floyd’s ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ (The Dark Side of the Moon, 1973). ‘Can of Worms’ (The Judas Table, 2015) put the two guitars in the spotlight: the first one arranging a dirty distorted illusion and the second soothing with a clearly-defined and soft resonance. 

Bass and vocals, dark lovers in crime: ‘Partners in Crime’ (Black Market Enlightenment, 2018) summoned a new spooky atmosphere owing to a recognisably crisp and subtly distorted jazz bass sound and Moss’ tempestuous lyrics. The supporting synths created the structure of what would appear to be a rap or hip-hop record, but the fracturing bass made an interesting intercession. That same obscure bass shifted to a space-y, gently ‘fuzzed’ (warped) sound for ‘Black Eyed Man’ (The Judas Table, 2015), which had a very unforeseen finale: a more complex drum rhythm and rockabilly-like guitar solo. 

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Live sound could have done with some betterments: by ‘The Last Laugh’ (Saviour, 2002), ‘Monochrome’ and ‘Paranova’ (Fear of a Unique Identity, 2012) it was all too evident that the live sound was in need of some organization. The main issue was the drums: they sounded too acoustic and raw, a little bit dissonant for the rest of the band’s sound, possibly a consequence of under-mixing. The bass, on the other hand, was notably dominant; to the point of eating up some of the higher frequencies of the guitars and keys. Sadly, at ‘Paranova’ the keyboard was barely audible. All in all, the obstacle seemed to be a poor balance in the mix for all the instruments. For songs with quieter drum highlights, such as ‘Integrity’ (The Judas Table, 2015), the live sound did not seem to suffer. ‘Integrity’ brought upon a very interesting Porcupine Tree sensation with Gavin Harrison-like drumming techniques from stem to stern. 

Bring on the darkest prog: the longest progressive track in Black Market Enlightenment (2018), ‘Between the Atoms’, came forth as an intriguing Katatonia (musically) and Pearl Jam (vocally) hybrid. A splendid symmetrical live rendition. ‘Is this what you wanted?’, howled Mick Moss with great vigour. Could be easily described as Antimatter’s twisted major work. The reprise was the finest moment: a mischievous guitar riff broke in, accompanied by unexpected orchestral synths. Fully embracing the Pink Floyd influence, Antimatter made a stupendous cover of ‘Welcome to the Machine’ (Wish You Were Here, 1975). 

Wide awake in the concrete boiling room:‘Can we please have some haze [onstage]?’, enquired Moss. To no response from the sound/lighting technician, he reiterated the request in a witty style. ‘I would like some haze because we [the band] can be seen too clearly. I have made eye contact with the audience several times, and due to my social anxiety, I have had thirteen panic attacks already’. The technician’s response was amusing. ‘Cannot put the haze on because it is too hot in here and the fire alarm would go off’. It was truly boiling. ‘Wide Awake in the Concrete Asylum’ (Fear of a Unique Identity, 2012) created a tense, ‘time is wearing out’ feeling by virtue of the berserk drumline. Quite an experimental track. Next, ‘Redemption’ (Leaving Eden, 2007) seemed to have been taken out from Opeth’s Damnation (2003) because of the slow-paced, apprehensive and unadulterated musical structure. ‘Sanctification’ (Black Market Enlightenment, 2018) was a very immersive and at the same time, paralyzing song – bringing to an end the Black Market Enlightenment experience: a journey through the topic of substance addiction in an obscurely innermost manner. ‘Leaving Eden’ (Leaving Eden, 2007) was a very atypical encore for its experimental nature. It all ended up with a ‘jamming strife’ between the lead guitar and the bass. A tenebrous enlightening evening for all.

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