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Τεμενος by Atra Hora - 75%

PETERG, September 15th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Darknagar Records (Limited edition)

One great phenomenon that I have noticed many times is that lesser known bands contact a lot of Metal Archives users to review their material. This was the case with Atra Hora. On of their members contacted me to give them an opinion on their latest album "Τέμενος" - which in Greek means "Mosque". This Russian assemble blends all sorts of extreme metal elements - black and death mostly - with a twist of melody and despite some awkward moments here and there it succeeds in delivering a solid piece of art.

First of all I have to say that I am really flattered to see musicians from another country using my mother tongue for their album title. Greek is a magnificent language and the word "Temenos" sounds really sacramental and occult! A clever choice given the extreme nature of their music. I can also sense some black metal influences from Greek bands such as Rotting Christ. The riffs are not the usual tremolo picked, minor scale ideas; instead we have all sorts of innovations from groovy sections to more staccato classic heavy metal parts. No track resorts to repeating the same idea more than five or six times. This displays songwriting confidence and also creates a more chaotic but condensed atmosphere. It is incredible how easily they manage to crawl out of the mindless, structure-defied essence of black and death metal.

Sadly though the rhythmic section is bedeviled by some graceless, cookie-cutter breakdowns which take a bit of the ritualistic feeling. Although the build-up to some compositions is great - for example in the opening song - those breakdowns kill some of the excitement. However the band has a monumental ace up on their sleeve. That being the lead guitar parts. Almost every riff or melodic part is accompanied by beautiful lead guitar passages, sometimes more subtle others more extroverted. The tone is exceptional and the phrasing is simply captivating. It enhances the adventurous driving of the musical attempts and also gives the record the melodic touch mentioned above.

While displaying considerable songwriting abilities, the group's vocal performance is certainly sharp. There are two main styles of vocals here : first the death metal growls, which despite some minor tweaks from the production are well executed. They have a lot of depth, volume and are not buried at all in the mix. On another note the "clean" vocals - I use quotations because they are not really clean; instead they share similar principles with ones found in acts like Hypocrisy or Be' lakor. The contrast between the two vocal parts is an ingenious idea forging a two sided figure of the songs - one more aggressive with prowess, one more passive with melody.

While the combination of black and death metal never really got into me Atra Hora proved me wrong. Without pushing the limits of brutality or the raw onslaught of death and black metal they find ways to write creative songs that are surely worth listening again and again.