Awaken, Antagonist: a profile of Fairbanks death metal

Wyatt Wilcher / Sun Star

A lot of the popular local music that comes from Fairbanks is acoustic, generally either acoustic or folk. One wouldn’t expect to find a melodic death metal band among majestic mountains and rugged landscapes. Despite this Awaken, Antagonist was founded three years ago in Fairbanks by Kris Larson and Tyler Martin.

Since their foundation, they have added Jesse Gill and Sean Pederson, both on guitar, and Mark Redinius on bass, with Larson and Martin on drums and vocals, respectively. Martin writes most of the lyrics, taking inspiration from horror movies and the ideas that come from them, such as the song “Homicidal Seed,” which is about the mind of a serial killer, or “The Great Unrest,” which is taken inspiration from the low-budget horror film “The Evil Dead.”

Awaken Antagonist’s music itself is an interesting counterbalance between melodic yet heavy guitars, with angry, chaotic sounds reminiscent of hardcore punk, while retaining the demonic, guttural vocals common to the genre. Their sound is one of contrasts, be they light and dark, ugly and beautiful, chaotic and peaceful, or even soft and heavy. Although from Fairbanks, Awaken, Antagonist’s sound reflects outside influences, which include such acts as The Black Dahlia Murder, Cannibal Corpse, and At the Gates.

“Every time we change members, we either get more committed members or just better musicians. So, we never downgrade,” Larson said in reference to the revolving door of band members that have been in Awaken, Antagonist since the band’s foundation on Sept. 30, 2011.

However, a metal band from Fairbanks faces some unique challenges, considering the town isn’t exactly a breeding ground for metal bands like Los Angeles, New York, or London.

“I think that it can benefit or it can hurt you, because when we go play places out of state, we tell people we’re from Fairbanks,” Larson said. “But, when we play, we’re recognizable. We don’t lead with that.”

Death metal is described as a sub-genre of heavy metal music that incorporates heavily distorted and downtuned guitars, fast-paced riffing, drum beats playing at blindingly fast tempos, with an emphasis on the “blast beat,” a beat played incredibly fast with a double bass pedal on the drums. Death metal lyrics include such topics as horror films, extreme violence, and Satanism, but can also delve into topics such as philosophy.

Larson’s least favorite type of show to play is any outdoor or mixed genre show, especially “Angry, Young, and Poor” (AYP) a free music and entertainment festival in Ester Park. The band felt they were playing on deaf ears, as AYP doesn’t exactly have a huge metal crowd.

“I’ve noticed pretty much with metal, as long as you’re screaming, nobody really gives a damn what you’re screaming about,” Martin said.

On advice for musicians and bands, Gill said to record everything. Martin said to keep practicing and to not be discouraged by an empty venue. Larson said to play the music that you want to play, and not what everybody else wants you to play. Redinius agreed on recording everything. Pederson said to not be intimidated by other bands’ musical skills.

To learn more about the band and to check out some of their work, their website can be found here.

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