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Since the day in 2009 when I discovered that the Drowning the Light guitarist Blackheart had spun off a project of his own, back then named Atra Sacramentum, I've been an active hunter for more material, and luckily he has provided tons of it lately, In Reverence of Decay being already the second album, and there's also a newer EP, Up-turning the Curse, out as well.
Nothing major has been changed from the deadly, cold and ghastly scheme he properly began to explore with last year's debut Death Coven. The deal is low fidelity underground black metal with a very genuine aura of oppression, discordance and latent melancholy. There's a strong focus on general atmosphere which becomes clear at the beginning when the introductory ”Of Mysteries Ancient” sets the creepy mood and then flows seamlessly into sinister chord pluckings of ”Possessed by the Night”. The follow-up ”Majestic Evil” is a tad faster than its predecessor, using blast beats which are quite a rare sight on In Reverence of Decay. It is mostly slow menace what comes to the album's general tempo settings, but the aforementioned track along with the tad more melodic ”The Souls of the Arcane Dance” (which could almost fit onto a Drowning the Light record) are a few exceptions to the rule.
It is evident that Blackheart has never tried to come up with something amazingly inventive with Atra, but what is certain is that he is a master of atmosphere, and while some may disagree, I think he's done better job at that here on In Reverence of Decay than on Death Coven. The ambient bookends flow so flawlessly together into the metal you don't always even notice the change. The overall sound on the album is top-notch, reeking of all that is possibly evil and wrong, and esoteric. The vocal performance deserves a mention too, as the mid-range, resounding rasps, fit perfectly into the album's soundscape. Definitely a recommended purchase, but I still believe that he's able to craft even a better whole, hence the 'moderate' score.
3.5 / 5
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Atra is a one-man vehicle steered by aptly-named former Drowning The Light ghoul Blackheart, whose second thoroughly-underground full-length has been immortalised on wax by a small but commendable label that I otherwise know little about. Limited to just a hundred copies and boasting the most non-commercial feel, sound and vibe imaginable, ‘In Reverence Of Decay’ is right up my street / sewer.
It’s quite a short album, with just seven tracks plus the requisite intro and outro to fatten things up a bit but you won’t really notice because somehow the songs seem to last longer than they actually are. That’s because there’s a lot going on beneath the murky surface, so much darkness seeping through the speakers, so much ugly, twisted, raw Black Metal malevolence; you’ll be too busy wallowing in the smouldering filth to detect the passing of time or otherwise.
The songs are executed in a lo-fi manner, with the sound wibbling around all over the place at times, everything on the cusp of chaos but remaining just about under control. While the vocals are far from spectacular, they are sort of buried in the mix in a very cool way. In fact, everything’s buried in the mix. Thus, when it all breaks through in a bleak cacophony, it sounds like the early ‘90s all over again. Like when Black Metal was dangerous. Ish. This record brings me down memory lane but it also serves up music that’s bizarrely refreshing, new and different.
In a word, this is brilliant. Not that I really need to recommend it at all because the sort of people who seek out and purchase a release like this know exactly what they want and nobody who buys the decrepit, sludgy blackfest that is ‘In Reverence Of Decay’ will regret doing so. Still, thought I’d let you know anyway…
(Review originally appears on http://www.blackmetalreviews.com)
Few things could seem so desolate as a skeletal matron delivering a skull through her birth canal, and just such an image represents the cover of Atra's second full-length effort, In Reverence of Decay. The Australian one-man (Blackheart) outfit had a cold and murderous work on his hand with last year's Death Coven, and its successor more or less returns to the same chagrin precipice of traditional black metal aesthetics wrought through depressing, subdued melodies and the ineffable shadows of oblivion. There was a particular, wintry layer to the debut that I found lacking in this material, as if Blackheart had exchanged that frigid season for the festering decay of an abandoned sepulcher, but the style of composition itself is not a huge departure.
Throaty, spectral vocals are cut above a broth of salient, heavily processed distortion while the drums maintain a substrate of hammering simplicity. Often Blackheart will measure off a more driving, quick picked guitar across a crashing, thrashing undercurrent, but on the whole the patterns are one-track in their oppression. For most of the track list, the writing is admittedly rather predictable, a mix of mid to faster paced tradition with segues of ghastly significance at a more somber plod ("Upon the Throne of Shadows and Doom", the latter half of "Majestic Evil"). But often some subtle, defined twist of melody will manifest to reward the listener for braving the album's murky depths ("Phantasms of Silence and Dying", "The Souls of the Arcane Dance"). Blackheart has also included a pair of frightening ambient bookends that round out the album rather well, the tormented swell of intro "Of Mysteries Ancient" and the closing, acidic radiance of "Vox Vermes".
All told, In Reverence of Decay is not quite the measure of Death Coven. That album had some choice moments in which I felt like giving up my steaming blood to the snows, while this one more or less broods for about 36 minutes and throws you the occasional chill. Effective enough to turn any smile into a frown, but not quite ready to stand slit-wrist to slit-wrist with the more ominous offerings in the genre. As well written as a lot of the underground material out there, but never quite distinguishing itself. Those who enjoy the comparable sounds of Striborg, Moon and Drowning the Light or dank/depressive black metal would do well to at least check this out, but I can't imagine myself reaching for this over the Atra debut.