The industrial duo's latest album tests the boundaries of their genre.
Industrial music has made a big comeback in the last few years. Artists such as Zola Jesus, Light Asylum, Youth Code, and Toronto’s own Trust have all been making music that would have fit right in on Wax Trax! Records circa 1991. The trick is, they don’t call it industrial music—it’s darkwave or synthpop or dark synth, or anything but industrial. Industrial is for people with light-up hair, decked out in PVC and trench coats. Industrial isn’t cool.
On their new album, Brotherhood, half-Torontonian, half-Ottawan duo Antigen Shift present a sort of mirror image to this trend. While the band is proud of its roots in goth and industrial—both members have been active in the scene in one way or another for more than a decade—they’ve managed to make an album of eclectic industrial music that would be equally at home being played at Veld as at Darkrave. It’s dark without lapsing into self-parody, catchy without being boring or refusing to push boundaries.
Brotherhood contains a more diverse array of sounds than any record we’ve recently heard, yet Anntigen Shift has somehow managed to work its varied influences into a cohesive package. “Godkrusher” slowly builds from strange glitchy synth squelches and asynchronous percussion before diving into five minutes of grab-you-by-the-throat metal-guitar-meets-jungle-breakbeats breakcore. “Breakaway” is the polar opposite: comparatively minimal, midway between a song and a soundscape, based around pianos, light snares, and something that sounds like a jet taking off. The mixture of aggressive percussion and uplifting synths on “Console Nation,” meanwhile, owes at least as much to Utah Saints as it does to Frontline Assembly.
“Reborn1130” is far and away the most commercially accessible song on the album. It comes remarkably close to being big-room electro-house, but with the synths a little more distorted, the chord progressions a little darker, and a merciful lack of “wait for the drop” gimmickry. It’s an EDM song for adults. “Legion,” on the other hand, is about as close as Brotherhood comes to old fashioned ‘90s industrial, with its furious choppy guitar, crescendoing keys, four-four thump and movie dialogue samples.
Brotherhood is a big, ambitious record that attempts to cover a lot of ground, and succeeds. It’s catchy and kinetic enough to compel you to dance, but layered and complex enough that it merits repeated, thoughtful, alone-with-headphones listenings. It wears its industrial roots proudly, but isn’t tied down by them. Maybe industrial is cooler than we thought.