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The Alps are quite cold tonight. - 80%

hells_unicorn, April 9th, 2012

Switzerland has enjoyed a pivotal role in the development of the decrepit, morose style of music known as black metal, going all the way back to one of its earliest incarnations in Hellhammer and the early works of Celtic Frost. But the peculiar character and style of what’s been coming out of there of late is perhaps better understood by the earliest works of Samael, and that seems to be where a good amount of the influences taken by latter day adherents Atritas seems to be coming from, along with a good helping of Swedish influences on the more melodic and atmospheric side of the coin. The common imagery of bleak and unending darkness is very present on their latest offering “Celestial Decay”, but tempered by a more straightforward approach.

In contrast to previous works by this old yet only recently successful band, this album has a bit less of an overt symphonic tendency, and mostly utilizes keyboards to add an additional to dimension to what is already a sufficient and powerful apparatus. It’s much more of a guitar driven affair that definitely takes some notes from the likes of Marduk, Dark Funeral and the somewhat melodeath tinged ambiguity expressed in the works of Dissection and Unanimated. The speed factor is punishingly exaggerated to the point of rivaling the insanity of some modern tech. death outfits, but the melodic contour and harmonic progression is a bit easier to follow and the composition style is a bit more song oriented. But more important than anything else is that the atmospheric character is cold and forlorn, perhaps leaning a bit towards the most recent efforts of Immortal, minus the lead guitar trappings that tie said Nordic pioneers a bit more to the older guard.

For all of the lofty and audacious titles being employed to denote each chapter of this book, the general ebb and flow of this album is pretty predictable, particularly to anyone familiar with the middle era works of Mörk Gryning. Whether it be the frequent stops and starts of “Memorium Magicus” that occasionally sounds ballad-like but largely rests in a coasting, semi-thrash meets Emperor style aesthetic, or the seemingly endless fury that is “Blasphemic Madness” that somehow finds itself in similar territory, each song manages to hold up this yin and yang contrast of fast and slow and often employs either at similar points in the song. In some respects it is reminiscent of the work that the recent German black/death outfit Thulcandra has put together, but it all looks back to the mid to late 90s in its overall approach. But despite a general degree of sameness from one song to the next, the approach is well executed and quite effective.

It’s a safe bet that anyone who has an appreciation for the longwinded career of Limbonic Art in recreating the magic that originally happened on “In The Nightside Eclipse” will be drawn to this band, but this album comes off as a bit plainer and less symphonic in its delivery. It’s a good album and should be looked into, but the average consumer of this brand of blackened brilliance will probably want to check out the two previous albums, both of which feature a much more active keyboard element that plays to the genre in a much more direct way. This is slightly more geared towards the traditionalist black metal enthusiast, though the clear production and intelligible vocals might cause some to liken them to Dimmu Borgir, though there is a good bit more going on here than what they’ve put out for the better part of 12 years.