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Chicago’s own brand of sludge/stoner metal needs no further push for greatness than in the confines the The Atlas Moth’s newest entry, An Ache for the Distance. Not exactly down-tempo to the point of boredom, the slow and methodical approach to this music is a welcome change of pace for those of us sick of the incessant droning guitars of many contemporaries.
What attracts me to the sound of The Atlas Moth is the paced setting of the music; it doesn’t rely on an overused need for speed or vocal hyperventilation and just flows evenly and finds the carved niche with relative ease. Expertly produced by James Murphy, the groove-inspired feel might as well be 70’s made, but the contemporary mood is the charm and winning element as it finds the marriage between the eras seemingly tailor-made. It’s easy to see how a band like this can assuage the masses with heavy hard rock that never needs to embellish or belabor the point being made; this is one of my hometown’s favorite underground sons right now and deservedly so.
That familiar ugly guitar tone is so encircling and comfortable that a song such as “Holes in the Desert” fills the room effortlessly and harbors an ill will that hangs like a battered tapestry overhead. The airy vocals don’t necessarily say ‘black metal’ as much as they do ‘ethereal longing’; the breathy delivery is the perfect accompaniment to the music. Maybe if more black metal bands took a page from this playbook there wouldn’t be so many boats on the lake, but that’s neither here nor there. When “Gemini” begins with its haunting tone and hymnal-like vocal you feel the ambiance in the room immediately shift and you adjust accordingly to take in this musical sorrow. While I wouldn’t call this album depressive or sorrowed in the barest sense of the words there is a feeling of forlornness that sort of attaches itself to your psyche, but it’s something warm and welcomed. “25’s and the Royal Blues” is my favorite track with its post-rock feel that doesn’t weigh on the obvious and lets the music speak for itself without benefit of underwhelming explanation.
The tracks on here are songs you can easily revisit, as they are simply well-crafted pieces of the larger puzzle that is The Atlas Moth. Sludgy, doomy, tempestuous rhythms loom large in this collective of often overpowering and mood-stabilizing music. Without giving in to pretension and derivative nuances, An Ache for the Distance capitulates on the positivity in stoner metal and ascends to the top of the hill with intelligently-worked music that finds comfort in simplicity and despair in hidden crevices of the mind. Either path you choose will directly lead you to a point of utopian bliss too easily lost to over-estimation or lackluster imaginations.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)