Sound — 7
For those of you unfamiliar with these guys, The Atlas Moth is a atmospheric, blackened stoner-metal band (yeah, you are reading that right) gathering elements of black metal, stoner metal, atmospheric doom, and a hint of post-metal on their first album (which if you haven't taken the chance to listen to it yet, "A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky" is an absolute masterpiece). Their previous album, "An Ache for a Distance," I found to be an okay follow up to their first LP, but kinda paling in comparison due to the repetition. This is a bit late since the album came out back in February? But here's my track for track review of The Atlas Moth's newest album "The Old Believer."
"Jet Black Passenger" opens the album with an immediate low-tuned booming groove-oriented riff with layers of swirling guitars. The perfect contrast of the vocals with both harsh, black-metal style screams and masculine, relaxed cleans going simultaneously give way to the entire atmosphere of the rest of the album. I've never heard such an immaculate blend of layered vocals... layers... lots and lots of layers seem to be Atlas Moth's trademark, as this general concept of toying with multiple textures on top of each other echoes throughout the album.
"Collider" starts fairly similar to "Jet Black Passenger," but rather than combining the vocal styles together, with this song the vocalists are separated by different parts and riffs of the song as though to further study and experiment with the difference in their vocal styles. If it weren't for the few subtle differences here however, I wouldn't be able to pick out a major difference between this song and the opener.
"The Sea Beyond" has a far more straight forward, metal guitar riff to introduce the song than the first two, only to very quickly transition to Atlas Moth's formula of layering everything for this album. This formula really works with how catchy the riffs in this song are. There's a lot of shit going on between the distant and beautiful glimpses of synthesizer that sparkle through the mix towards the middle of the song and intricate guitar work. The little guitar break towards the end where the synths really cut through with the black metal vocals is pretty damn bada-s and of the first few songs, this is certainly the most emotionally driven sounding song.
"Halcyon Blvd" is the first song of the album to start almost completely different from the others, starting the atmosphere first with a very cold keyboard tune, introducing some clean vocals and following with the whole band. There's a constant back and forward motion throughout the song, taking on a typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus formula that works quite well here.
"Sacred Vine" begins quite similar to the first two songs with a pretty cool psychedelic guitar swirling into the main riff of the song. The drop-tuned guitars create a really great rhythm section for the synths to weave around on top of them. The bridge in the middle of the song really breaks up the formula from the first two songs so it doesn't sound too much like Atlas Moth is copying itself, but with this track, you kinda can't help but think it's starting to sound the same... But then...
...That's when "The Old Believer," the title track to the album, cuts through with a very chuggy and kicka-s riff. It sounds like the album is about to go into a different direction, but Atlas Moth start right back into the formula they have come to establish and pigeon hole themselves with. It would have been really awesome if they revisited the initial introductory riff somewhere else in this song, but all the layering makes you lose track of it in the mix. This is where post-metal/post-rock lovers might come to understand that sometimes TOO MUCH layering isn't necessarily a good thing and simplicity is sometimes the way to go (not saying these guys are post-metal/post-whatever by any means, but the post genres are often the ones that are layer after layer after layer).
"City of Light" is really the stand out track on this entire album sounding almost completely different than the others with a beautiful, repetitive synth section that sets the mood for the entire song. Such a simple synthesizer tune floats through the whole song and allows for vocals to pleasantly flow right over them and eventually some fairly epic guitar riffs and leads. This song is the closest to their first albums sound where they took the time to set the atmosphere for their songs and allowed things to build on top of layers so that things were easily distinguishable. This is easily the best track of the album and the vocals and vocal harmonies fit the song almost too well.
"Wynona" is repeating the same pattern as many of the other songs on this album at this point with little accents on different things. The drums on this track in particular are pretty rad, despite carrying such a familiar lament.
"Hesperian"... It's like Atlas Moth WANTS to do something different with the songs, trying to sound different with each introduction but then immediately after a couple seconds maintaining their formula. There's a real love/hate with this formula they use because while many of the songs sound quite similar, there's little differences in each song that make particular parts interesting. "Hesperian," for example, has some very catchy guitar riffs, especially towards the end... plus... dat guitar tone.
"Blood Will Tell" is once again, repeating this formula of layering. I was really hoping for a more epic closer to this album like the closer to "A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky."
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics I personally really enjoyed with this album based upon the emotional aspect of it. Lead guitarist a main man of the group, Stavros (please don't ask me to spell this guys last name) was quoted in an interview to have written a lot of the songs on this album about the passing of his mother within the past year. That being said, the lyrics tend to bounce from song to song between some deep, serious topics to basic drug use and psychedelic paraphernalia (something that The Atlas Moth has always been pretty open with). Vocally, the two contrasting vocal styles really compliment one another.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall, the album is a hell of a lot better than half the big disappointments that came out this year and a lot more engaging than their previous album. With their approach to psychedelic guitar leads flowing over rhythm sections and synthesizers they have clearly mastered, it's nothing out of the ordinary; those who have followed Atlas Moth with "An Ache for the Distance" understand this. It seems that, with "The Old Believer," The Atlas Moth have taken what they did with their sophomore album and expanded on it. While this does prove their point as being masters of their style, with the amount of repetition, it kinda makes you wonder if they've run out of tricks and are doomed to suffer the fate of many other bands who pigeonhole themselves into one particular genre.