Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Atra Vetosus - A Palace Shrouded In Emptiness (Demo) (2011)

When last we left Australian composer Josh Young, he had taken the metal world by storm with his one man epic black metal project, Astral Winter. Now, having joined forces with vocalist Josh Gee, he brings us the first offering from Atra Vetosus. The two have combined their talents to form a band with a subtley different direction, with more of a focus put into the melodic, rather than the symphonic. But with the musical talents of Young, and the vocal prowess of Gee, you are sure to find all you can handle on "A Palace Shrouded In Emptiness."

A grating scream launches you straight into the title track, "A Palace Shrouded In Emptiness." Immediately, the melodic sensibilities shine through in the guitar riff, pounded home with a never ending stream of bass notes. The drumming is intricate and aggressive, a rumbling double kick complimented with the sizzle of cymbals from left to right. The vocal track comes straight from the pits of hell, with ear piercing screeches dominating the mic. A short stanza of clean, but ominous vocals looks to offset the fury, but is drowned out in a sea of sonic abuse. The thrashing you will endure at the hands of instrumental maestro Josh Young may leave you gasping for every breath. The keyboard and synth elements add just the right amount of ethereal tones to be effective. A clean guitar outro may come as a surprise, but a welcomed one, running directly from one track to the next.

That clean breath of air begins "Nocturnal Winds," a track that may have you feeling as if you are sitting in the elements. The musical tempo is slower, but by no means slow. There is a deliberate beat and melody to the track, with a catchy riff leading the way. The pop of the kick drum is a constant, before erupting into a full on black metal assault. With the crystal clear production work, it becomes easy to pick out each separate layer and dissect each one individually, as well as on the whole. While the guitars may drive the track forward, the bass presence does not go unnoticed. And amongst the many devastating percussive bursts, there is also a keen use of fills to tie sections together neatly. The ability to produce a discernable flow to the music is what keeps an album of this nature fresh, and allows for the vocals to do the dirty work.

A lightly played piano lays the foundation for "Far Beyond The Primordial Forest." But this is quickly and efficiently torn to shreds by a flurry of drums that could take down the Great Barrier Reef. There is nothing reckless about the way the drums are played, however, with each stroke finding the right sound at the right time. The screeches, by now, have become all powerful, pummeling your inner ear with harsh tones. But beneath it all, under all the layers of fire and famine, there remains a hook in the guitar riffs, more than one usually finds in such a stripped down, raw style of music. There are more than a fair share of overwhelming distortion, leaving your head spinning. But each is followed closely by a deftly played melody, or a surgically delivered fill or roll. This is the balance needed to transcend your label.

Black metal purists may find fault in the melodic push exhibited on this demo. But it's as if Atra Vetosus have found the next evolution of the genre itself, while still remaining rooted in the past. What stands out here is the cohesiveness the bands exhibits, with this feeling more like a polished album than a rough demo. With these three songs under their collective belt, and undoubtedly a myriad of song ideas in the works, we will simply have to sit and wait for the next installment.


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