In an industry where longevity is fleeting, L.A.’s Antagonist continue to evolve their signature style of groovy metalcore mixing burly vocals, soaring guitar leads and socio-political lyrics in a 20-plus-year career. Rising up in the scene alongside the likes of The Faceless, Winds Of Plague, and Job For A Cowboy, Antagonist made their own mark through constant touring and a relentless, DIY ethic.
Infinite Strength Records just released their first album in 10 years, Gone is the Light. It’s Antagonist’s “most complete album to date, both sonically and thematically,” says vocalist/guitarist Carlos Garcia. The lyrics, many of which were written pre-2020, seem to carry much more weight in the middle of a global pandemic and international civil rights protests.
Your melodic thrash sound is intact on this new release, but there are some different sounds, even sludgy, experimental touches. Was that organic, or did you plan to try some different things?
As the years have gone by, we’re kind of rediscovering the music we loved when we were kids, when we were first discovering music and bands and singing along to cool melodies and all that. I know some of the first stuff we listened to were the early ‘90’s, Seattle bands, Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Alice and Chains, and classic rock stuff our parents listened to … which led to bands like Black Sabbath, and also the first punk bands we loved when we were 10. So going back to our “roots” was not planned; I just think it comes with getting older.
The track “Worse Than Death” references one of your idols. Would you explain?
“Worse Than Death” is a reference to something said by one of my childhood heroes, Kobe Bryant. He basically said failure is worse than death, and after he died tragically, it was such a HUGE loss to me and the city of Los Angeles and a hell of a lot of friends and family and people around the world. Especially for us in the L.A. area, it felt like we lost a brother, a friend …we quite literally grew up with him. We saw the hard work and dedication to his craft, and we also saw his fuck ups, and through it all he had that drive, the “Mamba Mentality.” So “Worse Than Death” is about that drive, that never-give-up attitude that I try to live by every day.
The lyrics are certainly prescient. It’s almost like you predicted the social unrest we’ve seen this year.
I mean, I told you so! Not really, but the fact is, if you know even the least bit about history, you know that not much has changed over the last 100 or so years. Unprecedented amounts of money are possessed by a very tiny percentage of people who basically control everything. And the majority of us, working class people, we get the shit end of the deal.
The systems we live and work and exist in are not built to help us, but to divide us, to destroy us, to keep us fighting against each other. These systems of racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia … white, male, Christian supremacy, all these things have existed for such a long time, but I feel like shit is finally reaching a breaking point. People are sick of it, and they’re doing something about it. Those who have been in power for such a long time are shaking in their boots … they’re afraid, and they should be fuckin’ afraid.
Major systemic change is so close to becoming a reality. I really believe that.
You’ve taken a lot of backlash online for your opinions. How important is it for the band to answer its critics?
I’m not going to lie; it’s been very difficult not to respond to all the snarky comments we get for posting about social justice and equality and human rights. But therein lies the problem … this is about HUMAN RIGHTS! We might disagree on politics, but there are certain things that cross the line of politics and into the realm of just having common decency and respect for fellow humans. If you don’t have that, especially as an adult who has had plenty of time to figure things out, then I don’t have time for you because you’re not going to listen.
These are the people that throw words like “sheeple” and “snowflake” and “libtards” around and think they’re somehow clever. At the core of that narrative is hatred, hatred for people who aren’t like them. So sometimes, I just play along and give the snark right back, and usually, it catches people off guard because I’ll keep it sort of ambiguous, and they’ll kind of have to do a double take … like, wait … are we disagreeing, or we on the same side?
Most bands are lucky to have five years in this business, and Antagonist has soldiered on through two decades. What keeps things fresh and fuels the drive to make more music?
Of course we have to love it, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. Lond (drummer Orlando Garcia; no relation) and I love making music, we love creating and playing live. The minute we don’t, I’m sure we’ll call it a day. Musically, I feel like Lond is always up-to-date with what’s going on in the scene, what bands are coming out, what sounds are getting heat. He’s really in tune with that stuff, which in turn influences how we write and approach things and creeps its way into what we’re doing.
That helps keep it fresh, for sure. And lyrically, I’ve never felt like I was a great writer by any stretch of the imagination, but for the subject matter we focus on, all I have to do is look outside and see what’s going on. As you know, there’s a whole lot of shit to talk about right now.
Hear Gone is the Light here.