Austrian musician Philip Santoll bore his solo project Nonexistence into this world with the excellently received Nihil back in 2007 but since then he has been a little on the quiet side. Thankfully, that silence wrought the impressive Antarctica; a work in which Santoll brought on board Finnish artist Tuomas Saukkonen (Before the Dawn, Black Sun Aeon) in order to produce and offer creative input for the first time in Nonexistence’s life. Saukkonen also lends his talents to the bass and drums on the record and the effect of the collaboration is felt across the entirety of Antarctica – from the steady thrum that the bass injects to proceedings to the monolithic weight of the work as a whole.
Self-dubbed “Cosmic doom black metal,” Nonexistence sounds exactly how you’d expect. A vastness is felt across Antarctica that seeps into your bones and rolls out before your eyes in waves of cold, harsh black metal influenced tones. ‘Hope Died First’ burrows under your skin in doomed out bliss whilst Santoll growls his way to profound and affecting cries of sorrow, likening his pain and despair to the huge expanse of the ocean.
Moments of crushing heaviness push forth on ‘Shroud Of Distress’, encompassed by a beautiful clean vocal that shines through the darkness and adds to the wonderfully melancholic atmosphere of Antarctic, giving it a dimension of utter truth and real pain before “Darkness Shining” and its slight hint of goth rock (synth choirs, industrial drum beats) bursts into being with swathes of guitars and a rasped vocal presence.
The stomping bombast of ‘The Void Of No Void’ lifts Antarctica from being an overly depressing nightmare (which there’s absolutely nothing wrong with, but you can have too much of a good thing sometimes) into new directions and realms of reality, mirroring the cycles and falls of the journey of life with peaks of pace and troughs of sudden doom. Sweeping, echoing guitar work filters through album closer ‘Starless Aeons’ which brings Antarctica to an end with bittersweet, sorrow-filled riffs and guttural howls of absolute despondency.
Antarctica is a grand and majestic work with a heck of a lot going for it. If this is the true sound of “Cosmic Doom Black Metal,” then we should all embrace it.