France is home to many lovely things: champagne, baguettes, cheese, that guy from that Norwegian Black Metal band that now lives out in the middle of nowhere playing with video cameras… You all know the one. But it is also home to the Doom/Death Metal band Atavisma, of whom recently released their first full length debut album in late July: ‘The Chthonic Rituals’. Formed in 2013, this 4 man outfit from Paris already has a few releases under its belt, including demos, a split and an EP. Characterised by a mix of Doom, Death and a tiny hint of Black Metal thrown in for good measure, Atavisma makes for an interesting mashup of styles to create their sound, which is very clearly on display throughout ‘The Chthonic Rituals’. However, there are some flaws throughout the album that detract from the final product, and I feel that bigger fans of Doom metal may enjoy this more than others.
The musical performances on this album are all rock solid, with some great guitar and drum playing throughout. Big, sludgy guitar tones; rather reminiscent of some of the old-school Swedish Death Metal tones, play a huge part in the character of the sound throughout the album. The actual performance is precise and skilful, with some really interesting riffs flying about in some sections of the songs, as well as some nice lead lines too in places. The drums are punchy and well played, slathering songs with blast beats a plenty. They noticeably take a very forward spot in the mixing of the album, cutting right through the sludgy guitars and almost into the foreground of the soundscape. It sounds right in place with some slower sections of songs with more ringing guitar chords, but swallows some of articulation of the guitars in faster sections when playing lower riffs. The bass is very strong in the bottom end, adding to the sludgy sound of the guitars in the slower sections, but again becomes really lost in the faster parts. The vocals throughout the album sound like they’re too far back in the mix, at times inaudible over the other instruments. I feel like they were intended to add more to the atmosphere of the overall sound; drenched in reverb, almost sounding cavernous in nature. This works great, when they can be heard. Actual lyrical articulation isn’t particularly present, but it seems like that is not quite the point. It’s about the sound and the atmosphere, after all.
The song writing itself, whilst it is not bad, seems to fall back into very similar sounding sections in songs. I couldn’t really discern which part of which song was what at times, and I was often craving some kind of change in note choice, or slight change in mood. I also felt like some songs moved quite slowly, but I think it’s more of a personal taste. This album feels mostly like it is trying to create an atmosphere about it, like wading through knee deep mud and filth. People that like a heavy, filthy sound to their music may find this kind of sound and song writing style quite enjoyable, but personally it’s not for me. There are also some noticeable parts of the songs where one guitar is not playing, but the buzzing noise is left in the recording. I’m not sure if this was a mistake, but it may be an artistic choice, as this noise isn’t heard often, even when only one guitar is playing.
Whilst this album is not up my alley, I feel those that enjoy Doom metal more than I do would find this a really solid debut. The musical ability is there, and there is undoubtedly a lot of love and care that went into this album. ‘The Chthonic Rituals’ is an album for those that like themselves some death metal, but also like more atmospheric, doom metal too.
Get your hands on ‘The Chthonic Rituals’ HERE