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Atakheat > Frigid Destiny of the Moon > Reviews > NausikaDalazBlindaz
Atakheat - Frigid Destiny of the Moon

Burning raw BM & gurgly dungeon synth reveal a wacky Satanic world - 78%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, November 22nd, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, Digital, Independent

Seeing that mystery solo BM act Atakheat is based in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, I'm not expecting a high standard of musicianship or production on this, Atakheat's first demo "Frigid Destiny of the Moon". I know something of Cambodia's past pop-music history: from the late 1960s to 1975, the country had a creative and quite intense pop music scene combining Western pop, rock and soul music genres with Cambodian vocal styles, dominated by singers like Sinn Sisamouth, Ros Sereysothea and Pan Ron. After the Khmer Rouge came to power in early 1975, they began a social engineering project aimed at eliminating all Western influences and this led to the annihilation of the Cambodian pop music scene and its artists. Sisamouth was apparently murdered by Khmer Rouge soldiers in 1976 and the fate of the other two mentioned singers is unknown. The Khmer Rouge's genocide of all artists and musicians suspected of being tainted by Western influences ensured that even after the Khmer Rouge's downfall in 1979, the country's culture and arts and music scenes were slow to revive. I admit to being surprised that a small underground metal scene exists in Phnom Penh after all that the country has been through over the past 45+ years.

Atakheat's style is a mix of burning raw black metal and dungeon synth, both genres highlighted and complemented by their sheer contrast to one another, veiled in a production that is basic yet shrouds it in an air of black malevolent secrecy. The black metal guitars are sharp and spiky, and actually clear enough to cut through the darkness like knives of sudden blinding light, which might suggest that the lo-fi state of recording and production was intended. The first BM-proper track "Apocalypse: Year 666" is a chaotic melange of punchy percussion, needle-sharp guitars burning up the blackness faster than lit detonators can cause dynamite to explode, plaintive synth drone wash, and unholy shrieks of deranged phantom demons racing around in the pitch darkness. Filled with nauseous melancholy, the synth tones follow a slightly cartoony melody competing with bristling tremolo guitars and thumping drums for attention, while the vocals run amok in the dark background. A most curious combination indeed!

"I Spit on Your Cross" is another peculiar ditty – the music is actually more conventional melodic if repetitive BM but the vocals, coming out of some underwater BM world inhabited by demented amphibian demons I'd never heard of, bring a bizarre hallucinatory edge to the song. The singing goes from barmy to nth-degree barminess as the song carries on until it sails off into a realm where words simply fail to describe the madness going on there. "Flawless Obscenity" starts off seemingly sane with thundering percussion and symphonic BM going riot – until the vocals intervene, and from there the chaos picks up from where it left off. Pure-toned synth repeats a few notes over and over with a brassy drone accompaniment intended to drive you batty while distorted shrieking voices fly about in circles.

Oddest of all though is "Inside Satan's Heart", a mostly dark ambient number of wobbly warbly underwater drone wash and a choir of irritable crabby monsters flushed out of their hidey-holes by the thumping drums. A sinister Gothic piano melody passes judgement on the fraught activities, and the EP closes with a po-faced conclusion to the wacky world we've just witnessed.

In spite of the bizarre vocals and the comically otherworld ambient soundscapes, the music is actually well composed with clear if not exactly catchy melodies leading the way through the darkness. A clear narrative through the songs, of a descent into the furthest and deepest depths of Hell until we reach into its very core and discover the full extent of the horror and the madness, holds the entire recording together. There isn't much we can do for Satan – or for ourselves either, trapped deep down there with that piteous being.

Once you get past the neo-primitive styling of the music's production, and the (perhaps intentionally) cartoony vocals, you realise this EP is a work of demented genius. Maybe a little bit of cleaning up the production to bring out some murky sounds could reveal more battiness though some of the underwater gurgly ambience will be lost. Looks like I set my expectations too low for Atakheat!