Eyes Wide Open – Mick Moss of Antimatter

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Mick Moss has created a delicate, involving and contemplative sixth Antimatter album. Opening up, just as he does with many of his lyrics, to Ghost Cult, the English songwriter took the time to discuss the heart, soul and creation of ‘The Judas Table’ (Prophecy)

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The Judas Table absolutely needed to be recorded. Those songs had festered in my head for too long and I needed to clear the decks out.

“The second need was to get the songs recorded in a manner that was interesting to myself despite the fact that I had heard them again and again within the jukebox of my own brain. Job done. Both of them.”

While intrinsically melancholic art rock, Moss has brought together another album of personal, introspective reflection and revelation.

“It’s good to get things out, of course, but it’s not so much catharsis as hardcoding my realizations into lyrics so that I can live those empowering conclusions again and again. I actually want to revisit these realizations rather than to spit them out and be done with them. Hopefully if the listener can relate to my conclusions then they can use them to their own benefit.

I wouldn’t call it selfish, but I absolutely must think of only myself whilst working” states Moss when asked what his consideration when writing is. “The ‘listener’ is potentially everybody else in the whole world. Therefore, it would be impossible for me to work whilst always considering the listener in the back of my mind, as it would be impossible to please everybody, or worry about not pleasing everybody. I would go insane.”

That said, there is an acceptance that the nebulous “listener” plays a hidden role in the workings of most musical craftsmen.

“Admittedly, there are some incidents during the writing or construction process where I’ll come up with something that I feel is moving, and I’ll get excited and wonder if it will move the listeners the way it moves me.”

“During the writing and construction process of any piece of music, I always work to how my body and mind are reacting to what I’m writing (and) playing. This is how I navigate a piece from start to finish, trying to manipulate my inner feelings through the sounds that come back to me. So, yeah, it is an intention that the music is uplifting for myself. I then assume that if it can do that to me, it will do the same to some of the people who hear it.”

A similar assumption allows Moss to be fully expressive and personal in his lyrics; to exhibit a bravery in allowing his vulnerabilities and reflections to be exposed to others.
“It’s all I’ve ever done, so it’s not scary to me, no. Since my very first songs in 1996 I’ve been pouring my heart, fear, pain into my lyrics. Sometimes if I’m writing (something) too personal I can always wrap it up in metaphor, to protect myself I guess. But that’s something I’m doing less and less as I get older, and I’m making the lyrics more direct. I wrote the lyrics to ‘Epitaph’ from Planetary Confinement (The End) 30 minutes after I was notified of the death of a close family member, so I’m not sure if there’s anything too personal for me to write about.”

As far as Antimatter goes, Moss has always worked alone; he is neither distracted nor persuaded by the whims of others, but instead is able to hone and lead the path his music takes, keeping it a pure, personal vision. As such, there is a palpable bond between albums, with familial resemblances evident, a shared genetic make-up, alongside progression and development. The Judas Table, for example, bears the hallmark of its forebears but continues the evolutionary arc.
“Any new album carries over some traits from its predecessor. But there’s also a natural urge to go to new places that weren’t previously explored” Moss considers. “Plus, before Fear Of A Unique Identity (Prophecy) was recorded, the majority of Fear… and Judas… both existed in my head at the same time, so there’s going to be some links between the two there.

“After the frenetic arrangements of Fear…, I focused on simplicity. The brief that I set myself was to have everything nicely arranged and with no crazy tangents – although two songs did end up with a slight detour – (and) also to let a song tick over and explore that space with ethereal melody, as was successfully done with ‘Hole’ and ‘Little Piggy’.”

“There’s no real rule, except that I tend to know what I want to write about, and this flows out in a kind of stream-of-consciousness jam with myself. I then adapt the acoustically written songs to the full-band scenario based upon the drumbeats and dynamics that I hear in my head. I make a demo at my home studio and then record the album based on the demos; it’s a well-oiled way of working for me now, things just flow.

“Apart from the drums, which were recorded at (the) prestigious Parr Street Studios, Liverpool, I recorded the album in my home studio. I decided early on that, after the ‘Too Late’ single, which was partially recorded at home, I would do everything here where I would have the time needed to get everything just right rather than looking at the clock in a studio and having to pack up and leave at a specific time. It turned out great, actually, and has given me the courage to go on to do more here.”

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Mick Moss of Antimatter, 2015. Photo Credit: from www.facebook.com/antimatteronline

For those of us of a heavier, more rock/metal background, the likelihood is we were introduced to Antimatter due their association with Anathema, being the project Duncan Patterson turned to after leaving the progressive metallers, teaming up with Moss for the first three albums, with Moss continuing alone for the subsequent trio.

Interestingly, though, while they shared writing duties, they didn’t necessarily collaborate in the truer senses of the term. “When Duncan and myself worked together, we didn’t actually work together… I would craft half of an albums worth of complete songs and Duncan would do the same” confirms Moss, reflecting on any potential for expanding his song-writing to include collaborating with other artists.

“Ergo when he left, I didn’t lose a composing partner as I’d always worked 100% on my own material. The only thing that changed upon Duncan’s departure was that I then composed twice as many songs, which wasn’t a struggle as I already had a good archive of work by that point. In some ways it was actually better for me as then I had complete control over the album as a whole rather than it being two separate visions fused together.
“I can’t imagine myself ever working with somebody to write a song from zero, it’s such a personal experience and it takes a certain vision to get it finished. I would imagine that there would be quite some disagreements. And I certainly wouldn’t involve anybody else in the creation of what is known as ‘Antimatter’

“If I were to work with another person then it would be under a different moniker, such as the Sleeping Pulse project I launched with Luis Fazendeiro in 2014. Despite what I say about not wanting to compose with somebody, Sleeping Pulse was a fantastic opportunity to work with Luis’ existing music and then craft vocal melodies and lyrics over the top. A wonderful experience that allowed me to operate fully as a vocalist and lyricist, and to put all of my energy into those jobs alone without having to worry about all of the other instruments, like I do in Antimatter.”

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Antimatter, 2015. Photo Credit: Caroline Traitler

The Judas Table is a beautiful, reflective and uplifting album that works as an immersive experience, or, through its delicate melodies, as a calming influence. Aware of previous comments Moss had made, that, for him, success of an album isn’t measured in terms of personal profile or “fame”, just what would “success” for The Judas Table look or feel like, or is it something that has already been achieved in its creation?
“That’s a difficult question, as success can be judged in different ways.

“The album I made was better than the album in my head, so that alone is quite a success. Again, most reviews are positive, some are overwhelmingly positive, the fans have received it with love and enthusiasm, and the live sets are now stronger due to the inclusion of songs such as ‘Can Of Worms’, ‘Killer’, ‘Stillborn Empires’, so, again, I would declare it a success. How it does commercially is a different matter, and I have no way of knowing that at this time, but even if it sold just one copy I would still love the album completely.

“One by-product of taking the new songs out on the road, one thing I’m not sure I had really expected, was that the addition of this new material strengthened the Antimatter setlist like crazy.

“It was like a shot in the arm.

“The setlist we now have is like none I’ve ever had in the past, and one thing I’m thinking lately is I just want to enjoy this moment live for a year or so, really celebrate the place Antimatter is with these new songs in the repertoire.”

 

WORDS BY STEVE TOVEY

Moonspell – Extinct

Moonspell Extinct

Despite heaps of plaudits and a sturdy career as metal stalwarts, Portuguese brooding metallers Moonspell have never quite achieved the huge acclaim and success (outside of their native country where they are a chart topping act) that they perhaps warrant. Certainly their latter day output surely has some mainstream appeal and accessibility, especially considering the worship that some Gothic metal bands (HIM being the prime example) have garnered. If any album of theirs should see them herald a wider audience then Extinct (Napalm) could well be that moment.

Certainly their most instant album to date, Extinct showcases the band’s finest elements to the full. Dark and melancholic in tone and subject matter but the hooks have an almost pop vibe to them, with some remnants of the pace and ferociousness of their black metal days, such as on album opener ‘Breathe (Until We Are No More)’, an anthem and potential rock club floor filler in the making. Fernando Ribeiro’s vocal displays are as luring and diverse as ever, veering from a seductive croon to a visceral bark with ease and fluidity.

The real ace in the hole is the Pedro Paixao’s atmospheric samples and piercing synths; adding a whole new dimension and tone to proceedings; exceptionally so on the likes of the title track where they steal the limelight with ease. There are even the faintest hints of a prog influence, shown on the eerie, piano led close ‘La Baphomette’.

Always a familiar name to some, especially those in the know, but now one that has all the qualities that scream out mainstream success, Moonspell should begin to hit the big time with Extinct if there is any justice. Bleak and full of despair yet anthemic and catchy as hell, with plentiful layering and nuances to find; a stunning work.

9.0/10

Moonspell on Facebook

CHRIS TIPPELL

Atriarch – An Unending Pathway

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I know that I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, but, goodness me, Atriarch’s latest foray into the blackened musical underworld, the beguiling An Unending Pathway (Relapse) is a very strange record. Strange in a good way, you understand. It’s strange in a disconcerting, haunting and sometimes unnerving way as well, if truth be known. Are you getting the picture yet? Yep, the third album from these curious citizens of Portland, Oregon is all kinds of odd.

Atriarch’s artistic growth gathered pace with their last album The Ritual of Passing (Profound Lore) which was a veritable smorgasbord of musical ideas, breathless interludes and a properly scary undercurrent running throughout. Having moved to Relapse Records, you would not be entirely surprised if the band played things to the gallery and delivered something relatively safe. Proverbial hats off to them then as An Unending Pathway, if anything, packs in more ideas and textures than its predecessor and, despite the often diverse, uncompromising approaches and innovations they have opted for, feels completely cohesive and immersive, In other words, I like it a lot.

Opening track ‘Entropy’ begins proceedings with distinct echoes of Slipknot’s ‘515’, an imagined Hades vomiting up its gnarled and gnarly denizens from their sulphuric lair into our seemingly doomed world. In terms of setting atmosphere and a sense of menace of impending doom, it does it with remarkable aplomb. Dark chants and incantations preface a dark rock track that, vocally, sounds akin to what would happen had The Fall’s Mark E Smith had ever accepted an invitation to join Black Sabbath.

There’s a similarly moody gothic undercurrent to ‘Collapse’ with its tribal drum patterns, evil monk like chanting and slow burn menace. The military two step drumming at the beginning of ‘Revenant’ soon gives way to a black metal influenced noise rock that is bristling with malevolence and tortured anguish – Atriarch’s lot is clearly not a happy one. This deep sense of melancholy reaches its zenith on the brilliant ‘Bereavement’ where the black metal riffing and harrowing screams seem entirely apposite for the song’s subject matter; vocalist Lenny Smith puts in quite an extraordinary stint here where you believe completely in the singer’s pain and anguish.

The efficient balancing act between hard riffing and brooding melody is a key aspect across the whole album and that light and shade delivery keeps you engaged throughout. Whilst the black metal influences are nicely extolled there is no attempt to pummel the listener into submission: although claustrophobic, there is still room to take a breath and for the songs to inveigle their way into your cerebral cortex. This coaxing and coaching of the listener is perhaps best shown on the cacophonous delight that is ‘Rot’; rarely can bodily decomposition sound so appalling yet, in parallel, appealing.

An Unending Path is perhaps best experienced alone, in the dark with candles and lots of red wine. It is a richly textured album, full of strange vignettes, harrowing imagery and not a little guile and cunning. It’s the sort of record that you don’t think you will like, don’t think you’re enjoying when listening to it but you keep coming back to it, time and again, for another glimpse into the darkness that Atriarch have conjured. Like I said, strange: very strange indeed.

7.5/10

Atriarch on Facebook

MAT DAVIES