Atramentus feel like they’ve delivered the soundtrack for post-apocalyptic hellscapes on their new album Stygian, which is available now via 20 Buck Spin.
The three-track release packs around 45 minutes of pummeling funeral doom, pockmarked with elements like ominous streaks of synth and particularly heavy segues, like around the mid-point of the first track. There’s not really a flippancy or any kind of nihilism that’s apparent in the mix — instead, it’s crushing apocalyptic despair, as if the group has sonically captured the atmosphere of some vast expanse and then drenched it in an embodiment of agonizing misery. With their lengthy compositions — the closing song features over 23 minutes of music — Atramentus feel like they’re exploring some vast, desolate landscape. They never find any light.
There’s a concept behind the record that has been provided on the Bandcamp page for the album. In short, the imagined tale follows the travails of a knight who gained immortality and subsequently had to live through “the end of all life on earth” and a “great deluge.” The provocative cover art, by Mariusz Lewandowski, depicts this knight cowering in the midst of a vast barren expanse while shadowy, otherworldly beings seem to approach in the distance, and the mood of that story and that depiction feel perfectly reflected in the crushing music. It centers on mournfully slow yet forebodingly heavy guitar riffing intermingled with elements like roared vocals and synths that sound like they’re emanating from the overgrown ruins of a haunted church.
For the vast majority of the album, excluding a brief segment at the very end, Atramentus stick to hauntingly slow, creeping doom. Thanks to carefully tuned, mild dynamic shifts across the three songs, the riffing often feels like it’s slowly bubbling, as if the knight in the album’s tale is peering out over some vast yet clearly death-filled lake and the song captures the spirit of what looks back at them.
On the third track, the music builds into a particularly earth-shaking weight around the four-minute mark, but it subsequently settles into a mournful walk into hellish madness as well exemplified by the song’s comparatively brief concluding moments of black metal ferocity. As the album slowly but surely progresses, and the agonizing, funereal riffs drag on, the band sound like they’ve captured the sounds of some vast staircase suddenly opening up in the middle of the earth that leads into a shadowy great beyond. Listening to Stygian feels like walking down those stairs as blood-curdling, disembodied roars ring out overhead and the opening at the surface slowly grows more distant.
Listen to Stygian below!