Album Review: Atavist – III: Absolution

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When a band releases a record containing just four songs, you might be forgiven for assuming it’s an EP. Not when it’s Death/Doom stalwarts Atavist! III: Absolution clocks in at almost exactly an hour of crushing, emotive and atmospheric metal.

Recently reformed after a 10-year hiatus, Atavist may not be a familiar name to many, but for fans of extreme metal, they may recognise the names of those involved in the project. The band features Winterfylleth guitarist and vocalist, Chris Naughton, along with bassist Shane Ryan, drummer Callum Cox and vocalist Toby Bradshaw. This new record was recorded & produced by renowned producer Chris Fielding (Primordial/Napalm Death/Winterfylleth/Electric Wizard) at Skyhammer & Foel Studios in Northern England.

With those creative forces coming together on III: Absolution, it’s unsurprising to discover an album setting the bar for the Death/Doom genre. It also features the haunting strings of prominent solo artist Jo Quail on cello (Mono/My Dying Bride), as well as the exceptional talents of Bianca Blezard on viola/violin (Winterfylleth/Gatecrasher).

III: Absolution begins with the solemn strummed opening of Loss before the layered strings add to the atmospheric yet unnerving vibe. This gentle intro makes the arrival of the immense riffs and scorched vocals almost 3 minutes into the song all the more powerful. At over 17 minutes long, Loss is a slow-burning yet monolithic piece of music drenched in heaviness. It sets the scene perfectly for what’s to follow.

Struggle increases the sludginess of the band’s sound with Shane Ryan’s bass adding a distorted air of doom to the proceedings. Toby Bradshaw vocals are unbelievably powerful throughout and the production guarantees the crushing nature of the music works to maximum effect.

At ten minutes long, Self-Realisation is the shortest track on the album and also the most cinematic. Wave after wave of dense riffs give the track an apocalyptic feel, only heightened by the chiming bell that rings out hauntingly at its conclusion.

The album ends on a more positive plain with the sprawling and almost uplifting Absolution. The guitar riffs are more reserved, creating a sense of space and calm after the storm, the strings again taking the music to unexpected places. It all adds to the otherworldly nature of the album as a musical journey.

Naughton has said, “This is a soundtrack that travels through the depths of human emotion, from losing everything, mourning loss, realizing your own mind, right through to finding your way again. Ultimately finding absolution at the end of that journey. There is no joy here, only relief at the end of an arduous voyage.”

For fans of their previous material, III: Absolution will not disappoint at all, but the record also demonstrates the progression in musicianship and writing, over the last decade; that the members have developed in a variety of other extreme metal projects.

The album will be released on Candlelight Records on June 19.

Steve Gerrard

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