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Have you ever noticed that when Taco Bell creates a "new" menu item it's usually just a random combination of the same ingredients they've been using for years? For example, wrapping a crunchy taco inside a bean-coated flour tortilla is somehow considered something "new." Yet, the new item usually seems enticing enough that you try it anyway. And who really cares that it's only slightly new due to the fact that it consists of the same old ingredients? It's still satisfying and tastes good enough that you will probably end up coming back for more.
Chicago's The Atlas Moth combines an assortment of musical ingredients in an attempt to create something fresh. In a similar fashion to the Taco Bell menu item, you have heard each of these musical ingredients plenty of times before, but not quite in this combination. Their music is tasty and satisfying even if you can spot their influences with relative ease. The Atlas Moth's first full length, A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, builds its basic foundation with Neurosis / Isis worship. However, other ingredients sprinkled throughout the songs keep the album from sounding like a total clone. The vocal style varies amongst an Isis-style growl / clean singing combo, a black metal screech, and the occasional Torche-style vocal melody. The vocal styles all work very well with the music, although after a while the blackened screams can be too grating for my taste. It doesn't help that the black metal vocals are used frequently throughout the album either. The music itself also draws heavily from Isis with delay-soaked guitar parts and rumbling drums. However, doomy sludge riffs and bluesy guitar solos give the songs a little distance from the Isis sound at times. The drums are particularly impressive with their excellent organic tone. The drummer's toms sound enormous. He stays "busy" behind the kit even when the music is droning along, helping retain the listener's interest during some otherwise simple parts.
A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky has the feel of a concept album. It is bookended by the ellipsis-happy tracks "A Night in Venus' Arms..." and "...Leads to a Lifetime of Mercury." Ambient noise appears between each of the album's tracks connecting the songs to each other and giving the album the feel of one long piece of music. Unfortunately, the sounds between the tracks do little to create any kind of atmosphere and end up essentially wasting a dozen minutes of the listener's time altogether. The intro to "Jump Room to Orion" is an exception as it really sets the mood before the entrance of spacey, echoing guitars. The rest of the track continues with this atmosphere and proves to be one of the album's highlights along with the following track, album closer, "...Leads to a Lifetime of Mercury." It seems that The Atlas Moth saves its two best songs for last, closing the album with a one-two punch. There are moments of true excellence earlier in the album like the dissonant guitar harmonies in "Our Sun, Our Saviour," the cool outro riff and odd outro solo in "One Amongst the Wheat Fields," and the rolling flow of the drums in "Grey Wolves" and "A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky." While the whole album is solid and enjoyable, moments of true brilliance only appear upon occasion, excepting the last two tracks which are consistently awe inspiring. In the future, if this band makes a consistently excellent album instead of an album that is just peppered with truly inspired moments, they are going to be extremely impressive.
The Atlas Moth actually sounds like a band that would be more at home on Hydra Head or Southern Lord rather than Candlelight. With all of the Isis / sludge / doom comparisons mentioned above, this band might seem like a metal hipster's wet dream. While that statement may hold some truth, it would be unfair to dismiss The Atlas Moth as just another band in the so-called "beard metal" scene. Their influences may be fairly obvious, but at least the band is trying to combine these inspirations in new ways. Hopefully as the band continues to develop, its sound will become even more distinct and the members will turn their moments of brilliance into an album of consistently brilliant songs. I have a feeling that just might happen. The Atlas Moth is definitely a band to watch.
Originally written for http://www.metalpsalter.com
The Atlas Moth, scientific name “Attacus Atlas”, (which I’m nearly certain translates into “Huge Motherfucking Bug”), is actually a fitting name for this eclectic outfit from Chicago. Their sound is huge, terrifying, and elegantly beautiful, and I seriously doubt that your neighbors would want them congregating outside their porch light late at night.
That being said, The Atlas Moth are a low-key bunch. I’ve scoured the deepest vestiges of the internet, but have not been able to find any mention of their history save for their bio on Myspace:
“In April 2007, a mutual desire to play, a deep love for the almighty riff, and more than just a little blind luck drew together five young men from Chicago, and nine months later, they had a five-song EP, Pray For Tides, completed and a label, Witch Trial Records, to release it.”
One thing I noticed off the bat about The Atlas Moth is that the guitarist/vocalist (and owner of one of the most kick ass mustaches ever) Stavros Giannopolous is the current guitarist in the black metal super-group Twilight, along with Blake Judd of Nachtmystium and Aaron Turner of Isis, amongst others. Needless to say, given their peers are the heavyweights of the American Psychedelic/Black Metal/Sludge scene, I picked up their latest full-length, “A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky” with the assumption that it’d be Nachtmystium meets Intronaut.
I popped the album in and got really excited – I’m a sucker for anything psychedelic. The song structures are very proggy in the sense that they have a tendency to meander a bit, which is drawn out by the sludge/drone aspects of the fuzzed, infinitely dense guitar. The record is very minimalist at times, with a real sense of longing or wonder akin to shoegaze. What’s really remarkable though is how it can turn on a dime from a slow, psychedelic funeral hymn to a galloping stoner-doom juggernaut without the transition being jarring or unnatural. As if that wasn’t enough, amidst all of this beautiful chaos, moments of melodic clarity shrine through with chanted/gang clean vocals. The synth work is very similar to Nachtmystium, but more dissonant, adding to a richly constructed dark, psychedelic atmosphere, like drifting through space on peyote …kinda.
A MAJOR aspect of this album is the three guitarists. For the uninitiated, it seems like the trio are playing whatever they feel like with no care given to what the others are playing, but after a few minutes it all begins to make sense, as the three begin to feed off of each other, adding a distinct ebb and flow to the songs, each member accenting the other to form a soundscape greater than the sum of its parts. The vocals are patterned and performed similarly; they are executed by each guitarist, overlapping and intersecting as almost on a whim, giving the songs a very esoteric, almost alien feel to them.
In fact, the vocal styles are so distinct from each other that they’re worth mentioning separately. Used most frequently is a desperate, deep, well enunciated howl intertwined with a black metal shriek comparable to Nachtmystium, but much higher pitched and more controlled. These two are occasionally accented by dissonant, booming cleans which sound eerily like Scott Kelly of Neurosis fused with Troy Sanders of Mastodon, and are typically employed for gang choruses, especially during the melodic passages. These three main styles are accented also with a typical death metal growl and clean shouts.
“A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky” is the natural and mature progression from Pray for Tides, their debut E.P. The major distinction being A.G.P.o.B.S. has the more cohesive concept, and especially the interplay between the members becoming more fully realized and focused. The production is very clear but still a little raw, giving the aural equivalent of a film shot on 16mm, with a real sense of depth to the mix that adds a very Swallow the Sun-esque vibe.
Running along tides of sludge, doom and post-metal, Chicago residents The Atlas Moth are a slow and heavy collaboration of souls on this, their debut album "A Glorified Piece Of Blue-Sky". Coming in from the field of dissonant, feedback-heavy doom, TAM resonate with sounds akin to the likes of Unearthly Trance, Minsk, Isis, Bossk and Mastodon yet never sound exactly like any of them. All well and good you might say, but the need to create an enjoyable listen is just as great as that of making your record different from your contemporaries...
Opening track "A Night In Venus' Arms..." should be enough to decide if an album such as this is worth listening to for most people. Reliant on heavy, droning, trippy sounds mixed with juggernaut-sized riffs and a mix of vocal styles (predominated by atonal screams) the claustrophobic feel lends to an album unlikely to be anyone's choice of music when in a bright and happy mood. Not that that is a bad thing however; TAM are aware of building up songs, letting them simmer before reaching a climax of mind-melting metal purity and at times this formula works well. The clean vocals of "Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence", for instance, work a treat, giving significantly greater depth to the song than the throaty screams featured elsewhere - a vocal style I have never been particularly fond of. Such is the weight of the tone and production and the space allowed for droning feedback, quantifiable riffs only come round intermittently, one of my biggest drawbacks from "A Glorified...". More moments like the Mastodon influenced "One Among The Wheat Fields" would push the album up closer to the mark I awarded recently for the similarly sounding Minsk album ("With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone").
Album closer "...Leads To A Lifetime On Mercury", the longest song at 10 minutes against the rest averaging 5-6, opens with some excellent sensual guitar work and with many minutes at it's disposal gradually heads off through territories other, again highlighted by some nice and interesting clean vocal work which contrast greatly against the barks and screams often happening concurrently. Like all albums of this style a particular mood is required to really get into the cavernous sounds being created but what with even being in that style right now (heck I'm seeing Minsk in a few hours!) the sounds of The Atlas Moth don't flow concisely enough to make their debut a great album to enjoy. Lacking colour in many of the album's songs The Atlas Moth have shown a solid base of ideas and potential but to further this is going to require some greater creativity in riff and sound on their next release to create an album that will fuzz my brain out as well as kick my head in.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net