ANTIPOPE – Rex Mundi

ANTIPOPE – Rex Mundi



Once agan I find myself reviewing a fantastic album from a long standing band I have never heard of before. One of my excuses could be that Antipope started as a black metal band and, to be honest, black metal is a cherry pick genre for me. Another one could be that, at the time of Antipope’s conception, 2004, I was deep into metalcore not mindful of almost anything else coming out at the time unless it was someone I had already known such as Megadeth with “The System Has Failed” or… nah, that is about it. Meanwhile, Antipope, created by Mikko Myllykangas (vocals, bass, guitars), presently apparently the only founding member left, Antipope released three black metal albums, “Desert”²⁰¹⁰, “House Of Harlot”²⁰¹¹ and “3 Eyes Of Time”²⁰¹³, before briefly disbanding. Upon returning in 2014, Antipope took 3 years to release “Denial / Survival”²⁰¹⁷ and 3 years after that to issue “Apostle Of Infinite Joy”²⁰²⁰, black metal increasingly serving only as blueprint for the progressive heavy metal to thrash and even gothic and industrial stylings, the line up solidified as Myllykangas (vocals, bass, guitars), Antti J. Karjalainen (2008-guitars), Tuska E. (2008-drums) and Joni Tauriainen (2019-bass) for the recording of “Rex Mundi” (Latin: King Of The World). The 11 track album spans 56:35 minutes according to the band’s bandcamp and includes a short (1:55) piano interlude “Mysterious Ways Of Loss, Grief, And Distress” between tracks 7 and 9 which, for some reason, my promo doesn’t but it’s actually better that way since the short track is not essential and it causes unnecessary break in the momentum from “Twilight Of The Grey Gods” to “When The Day Is Done” which I don’t have on my copy thus enjoying the momentum.

Interestingly, the name Antipope, almost certainly alluding to the fact that the 2000 year Roman Catholic papacy had anywhere from 30 to 40 illegitimate popes (or, more precisely, that the church authorities didn’t always agree on who was or was not the legitimate one) that the name fits the lyrical concept of a deeply flawed institution which took upon itself the supposedly divinely appointed duty to impose narrow strict religious edicts upon the world by any means they found fit, including torture and murder, something we are actually witnessing from the religious political factions in the United States, a fact I have described at length in my other reviews such as the recent Revocation and therefore won’t elaborate here on (just let the perfect album cover do the talking). As for “Rex Mundi”, the title is probably sarcastic of the church promoting another Christ, one forcing religion down your throat by any means he finds necessary to your salvation (whether you want to or not, Mr. Anderson) as opposed to the gentle “If any man comes after me…” Son Of God of the Gospels. I’m always willing to present a thoughtful and, most importantly, historically and morally accurate, scathing view of the church from apparently unbelieving heavy metal artists and this is yet another example of such bolstered by, again, fantastic music.

Even more interestingly, Myllykangas (who is well capable of unleashing Rob Halfordesque screams like it is 1990 and he needs to kill the pain, if you catch my drift) presents the story from the point of view of the church leaders as he sings “Lord my God and Christ my Savior” in the perfect first song proper (after the somewhat redundant intro (Plague Of Heresy And Madness), a whopping 10 minute “Rex Mundi Aeternum” (King Of The World Eternal). While 10 minutes may seem like a stretch, I assure you not a second of it is wasted or artificially prolonged but is a perfect summary of what Antipope is capable of and fully showcases on this album, be it the epic melody (which might as well have opened the album instead of the intro which creates an awkward transition), or the immediately following Kreatoric thrash verses followed by a fantastic Cradle Of Fithy melodic chorus, or the Toolish “H” progression of the transition before the copious guitar melodic duel recalling latter Death (1993-1998), the spirit of Chuck Schuldiner a very frequent guest on this disc. Another standout and a personal favorite is “Eye Of The Storm”, slightly metalcorish or melodeathly riffs giving way to such an absolutely triumphant earworm of a chorus, Iron Maiden, Helloween or even Into Eternity, another notable influence on this album, would do anything to take credit for, one which gets stuck in your head to not leave it for days, another perfect progressive opus where there is a basic verse/chorus structure but applied in a unique fashion which has to be heard to understand what I am conveying. Another perfect track, the aforementioned “Twilight Of The Grey Gods” is more of a black metal but also doomish affair with the album’s second best chorus after “Eye Of The Storm”, followed by the last perfect track and the promo single “Church Of Wolves” (do the titles tell the story for ya enough?), with an Evergrey flair and an unexpected Arghoslent (not to glorify white supremacists but giving credit where it is due) influence in riffing and the third best chorus on the disc. There are two tracks that are fantastic melodically but a little less complex, “Nameless Ritual To Traverse The Abyss Between Darkness And Light” and “When The Day Is Done” (both 5.5), the former re-inviting Into Eternity with a Middle Eastern guitarwork and the latter with Chuck Schuldiner’s Control Denied (thus clearly with “Symbolic” vibe as well) and Arch Enemy riffing with some Iron Maidenish melody (or is it Dio I hear?).

Now, none of the tracks actually fall below the 5/6 mark so when I am brought to the weaker ones I do not really mean weak, per say. The remaining 3 are very good and the only way they can be considered weaker is by the comparison with the standouts. They may not excite me quite as much but is the Emperoric and Mercyful Fate/King Diamondish “Hounds Of Lord” weak by any stretch of the imagination as it brings the Iron Maiden (1983-1988) back? Does the sophomore In Flamesian and “Buried In Oblivion” Into Eternal “Glory Of Slaughter” lack power in any real sense? Is the, again, classicly In Flamesian Helloweenish Iron Maidening and therefore Into Eternal closing “Hell On Earth” (complete with the samples of crackling dying embers of what was once a burning stake of a martyr with a horrifying absence of screams of the burned) poor on melodies, riffs or solos? No, no and also no! So take my only criticism with a grain of salt, salt which possessing as a reviewer I am able to resist the temptation of just giving this near masterpriece a perfect score. They may still make them like this, folks, but ever so rarely and even more rarely this fresh. Very highly recommended.

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