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Medium greatness amid the looming blackness. - 85%

hells_unicorn, April 10th, 2012

Atritas is a band that has a good amount going for them, in spite of any accusations of lacking originality or a deficit in label support. They date back to 1997 when the likes of Mörk Gryning, Limbonic Art and Odium were picking up where Emperor’s “In The Nightside Eclipse” left off, yet have only recently been able to put their ideas to a series of full length releases, all of them possessing a level of grimness and authenticity that is not as common as one might guess. They tend towards the orthodoxy of the Swedish scene that immediately followed the Norwegian lead on the symphonic front, but have embraced the more polished, modern studio sound that is common to Old Man’s Child and Troll, none of which really lends itself to their Swiss roots if Hellhammer or Samael be the standard.

Amongst their respective releases, “Medium Antigod” finds itself literally in the middle of things insofar as the rest of their work is concerned, taking on the heavily orchestrated keyboard approach of Limbonic Art and also an extremely high pitched vocal assault that is pretty close to Hat’s insane impish ramblings on Gorgoroth’s “Pentagram”, but also incorporating a rich, heavy guitar sound that is just a tad bit crisp and clear even for the higher fidelity, latter day Immortal releases. To put it plainly, this isn’t quite as guitar heavy and pristine sounding as “Celestial Decay” would, but there is definitely a competition between the punch of the guitars and the ambience of the keyboards for prominence, though the vocals manage to steal the show most of the time.

For the most part, things tend to be pretty straight-lined in terms of songwriting, mirroring the accessible, formulaic tendencies of the more melodic side of the coin and avoiding the outright epic progressive tendencies of Emperor’s crowning pioneer work. But there is a fair level of adventurism in the riff department, as the likes of “Black Dominion Era” and “Ravenous And Devilish” incorporate a variety of blurring hypnotic passages inspired by early Darkthrone, but also a more percussive thrashing meets slight power metal character during a number of the slower parts. This multifaceted guitar approach is, nonetheless, kept in the context of a unified whole where edge and atmosphere share a balanced status, so nothing really comes close to resembling showboating, though the occasional banshee shrieks out of the singer get neurotic enough to almost sound like a slightly more disciplined version of Dani Filth circa “Midian”.

This isn’t the sort of album that can claim a level of greatness comparable to what would be deemed legendary, genre defining efforts, but it is one that manages to conform itself to common practices in such a way that it is worth paying attention to and regarding as beyond merely solid and sufficient. The true enthusiast of any sub-genre of metal will always make time for that above average 2nd tier outfit that follows the leader, but does so with a good level of distinction, and “Medium Antigod” exhibits this nature to a fault from start to finish. Apart from anyone who has a sense of loyalty to the older, rawer sound of the forefathers of symphonic black metal, this can be appreciated by just about anyone going in this genre’s direction, and could even appeal somewhat to the mainstream consumers who know only of Dimmu and Cradle, though it doesn’t really conform itself to the commercial sensibilities associated with recent output by either band.