Flat Worms – Antarctica review

by Chris Hatch

When it comes to despair, it wouldn’t be remiss to say that we’ve all had more than our fair share of it lately. Flat Worms view of the world on Antarctica, their second release, is almost drowning in it – despair for where we are, and the way in which we got here. And while the LA-based three piece articulate that feeling by way of jagged-glass guitar lines and unrelenting rhythm parts, there are hints of self-forgiveness and fleeting glimmers of hope amidst the simmering rage of Will Ivy’s lyrics.

Album opener, The Aughts, is an agenda-setting onslaught that frames Flat Worms’ worldview over a slideshow of rusting steel structures and ancient tombs. The Steve Albini produced track was recorded in one take and captures Ivy’s anger slowly boiling over – his caustic and uncompromising guitar lines verging on the unlistenable, as he mounts an assault in a hammer of noise that pits The Cribs’ 24/7 Rock Star Shit against Mclusky’s shouty anti-rock back catalogue.

As Flat Worms lay out their nihilistic view of the world, it soon becomes apparent that on an economic, natural, and societal level they believe the apocalypse is very, fucking, now. Ivy’s detuned guitar swings around furiously, searching for a crack in the rock face to cling on to, as he sings of ‘personality cult chambers’ on lead single, Market Forces, and of having ‘nothing to lose/nothing to offer’ on the Pissed Jeans-style barrage of Ripper One.

And while Flat Worms lament the state of the current global landscape, they make more than a subtle nod to the fact that, as a species, we are historically destined to destroy and self-destruct – The Aughts was inspired by Ivy’s trip to the Tombs Of The Kings in Cyprus, where he found ‘anxiety laid bare’ in the ruins of its once grand structures. Likewise, references to empires lost in Via (‘I lost my direction walking on stones of old Roman roads/They weren’t built for me’), and ‘vests of chainmail [and] heavy shields’ on the bass-driven, slow-burning dread of title-track, Antarctica, seem to draw a line between the mistakes of our generation and the ones that have gone for centuries before.

It’s in these parallels drawn between the past and present that Flat Worms find a glimpse of hope. For centuries we have ripped ourselves to shreds, but within each generation, and within each movement, there have been societal uprisings and confrontational pockets of the population that have kicked back against the norm. 2020 finds us in isolation physically, but we maybe aren’t in isolation in terms of attitude or standpoint, and it’s in this that Antarctica seems to find some solace. As the world sits at home, locked away from everyday life, there’s a phrase that is becoming more commonplace: together, alone. For the people that want to change their part of the world, or at least change the mindset of the people in it, it would seem that the only way to achieve it is by working together, alone. If Flat Worms are to be believed, we are running pretty low on hope, but for now there is still just enough left.

Secret Meeting score: 79

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