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judge a book by its' cover. - 95%

caspian, September 22nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, 20 Buck Spin

Great cover art. Fantastic, all time cover art. It's the same dude that did Bell Witch, yeah? Well it's sweet as and luckily the music is a fair bit more interesting than Bell Witch too.

To say Stygian is the best funeral doom of the century is faint praise, but also quite true, I'm a bit of a crusty boomer who thinks the genre peaked with Stream From the Heavens and Stormcrowfleet. Writing super slow stuff is easy, writing super slow stuff that is good is bloody difficult, but these guys pull it off and with aplomb.

I would hesitate to say it's lush, more so that these guys musta did a PhD in layering, keyboard coming in and plinking away, subtle synths, big ol choirs, big guitars, little guitars. Minor key melancholy for the most part, with the first track being a bit more chromatic and unfriendly. That huge, grab-a-beer-between-snare-hits drum sound that we all know and love is here. The not really all that interesting rhythm guitar which Skepticism kinda cursed the genre with is here too, but there's enough stuff going on around it (like Skepticism) where it doesn't really matter. There's the tendency for some neat leads as well, and I'm quite enamoured with the lyrical, vaguely-classic-rockish flavour that some of them have. Imagine November Rain but Slash is playing guitar outside of a funeral instead of a wedding, and you're maybe a quarter of the way.

You can probably talk a bit about the use of reverb as an instrument here; especially in the breaks within songs where things approach a very well sculpted ambient/drone kinda sound. Man. It all sounds as vast and desolate as the cover art, this huge, spacey thing, the overall sound being utterly massive and more immersive than a baptism pool. Immersion is a bit like atmosphere, impossibly to quantify and incredibly subjective but oh well, here it succeeds, for me anyway. It's probably helped by the well crafted narrative flow of the songs which keep you fairly enthralled throughout.

Look, it's extremely good and I just hope that the cover art is on sale as a t-shirt. Feel like this will be seen as an all time classic in the years to come. Check it out so you can say you were there when it happened.

a sweet suffering that does not come to past - 88%

Cosmic Mystery, September 21st, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, 20 Buck Spin

Comprised of members most notably within Funebrarum and Chthe'ilist, Atramentus emerges with its debut recording titled, Stygian. This record only has 3 songs which appear to tell a tale of some figure left to wander eternally. Their run times are very lengthy and may invoke somnambulism (the good kind) while the music itself possesses the key features and tested penchants of long-standing albums within funeral doom. The dedication behind this debut undertaking is evident and tells of the musical experience that went into molding such a phenomenal piece of material.

Stygian is bloated with the influences of prestigious bands home to the genre; Thergothon, Disembowelment and Evoken to name a few. Depressive tones, moments of sheer despair and dread are merged with the frequency of an ominous overcast. The 16-minute opener 'Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth the Ceaseless Darkness)' is a great track that sounds as though ones thoughts are being funneled through an echoing chamber. It has an overarching bleakness that immediately portrays the setting and is completed by perhaps one of the most haunting segments on Stygian being the slow, abandoned, solitary thump of the snare that fades away. It evokes feelings of both urgency and introspect, much of which translates the artwork seemingly Bell Witch inspired and is transferred to the secluded ambient skit being 'Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream in the Doleful Embrace off the Howling Black Winds)'.

'Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across the Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards)' continues the course by utilizing a wet, soggy, discouraged soundscape, that while dragging you to the end, manages to erect massive towers of despondency with landscapes draped in mournful guitar tones only to demolish it by introducing the menacing waves of vocal diversity. Sometimes an utterly nasty subterranean-dwelling, stretched-out-growl, or a leeching, lamenting-snarl is instituted, that in-turn amplifies the general tonality while enlivening, breathing motion into the artwork. Just the feeling of absent tranquility contrasted by growing pessimism ripples through Stygian; from the oscillation of feelings incited through the gnawing torrent of sharp, wailing-guitar chords and vocal grief (also in sung passages), to the downcast bass, drums + growls, to the atmospheric black metal outburst bidding farewell on 'Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across the Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards)'; the record takes the listener to a place of repetitive thoughts imprisoned by the frozen hour hand of eternity.

Posted at Metalbite.com