The Atlas Moth tear open souls on ‘An Ache for the Distance’

I quite often hear albums that, from listen one, I enjoy. That doesn’t mean the record is etched into my heart forever, that it changes my life or that months later it’ll still be with me, but I at least can identify that I like what I hear in the music. It’s a little less common for me that I like a record right away and, when I go back and visit further, it begins to have an enormous, powerful effect on me. Those are the special ones you’re certain will stay with you as long as you live.

I had that kind of experience with the new album from Chicago’s The Atlas Moth called “An Ache for the Distance,” released by Profound Lore, a label that never steers us wrong. The effect it had on me was unexpected. I always liked the Atlas Moth’s psychedelic-smeared sludge metal and spent a lot of time digesting their full-length debut “A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky,” but as much as I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t call it a collection of songs that is special to me. It’s good, and it was kind of weird that it was released by Candlelight just because this type of band isn’t something they typically offer. Their wacky covers EP “The One Amongst the Weed Fields” was more funny than good, and that seemed to be the point of it anyway. When the band’s new album was announced months ago (done, at first, by weird graffiti-style etchings of a moth and the 9-20-11 release date), I was more intrigued that Profound Lore was putting it out than I was by the music itself.

Like many, many other bands I like but don’t follow religiously, I looked forward the hearing the Atlas Moth’s new material like I would any other record from a band that I recognize as making good music. It was just kind of another intriguing metal release for me. The first few visits cemented those feelings as I liked the music, was interested in the even-deeper psychedelia on the songs, and figured I’d come back a few more times before it was time to write about in full. Then something happened. It infected me. Not like a scratchy cough, but like a full-bore flu. Hot head, sweats, sore muscles, weird physical reactions. Then I sat there stunned. I couldn’t believe what was happening and slowly grew more and more excited about what was pouring into my ears. I decided I had to hear it in all different ways: my ear buds, traditional headphones, on my stereo, in my car. Every time I switched to a new means, I heard the record and its parts differently. I can’t remember another album this year with which I had the same relationship. I’m not saying it’s the album of the year, though it’s really awesomely great, but it’s the one that totally changed my mind about this band. It also did something else, in that it replaced ISIS as my go-to band when I want to reflect and let my mind wander. Turns out you no longer were needed, ISIS, and you haven’t really delivered something like this in the past half-decade or so. Sorry.

The nine-cut record has a more fully realized sound than their debut and it’s much richer. It’s actually quite enveloping, and it’s something with which you need to participate intellectually to totally appreciate. At least I think so. A friend of mine, who I won’t name, told me “An Ache for the Distance” is a great album to hear when you’re high. I’m not surprised by this because there is a druggy overtone to a lot of the music, and I can at least attest to listening to thing while drunk. And it sounded pretty amazing then, too. “Coffin Varnish” kicks off the record with a heavier, nastier edge, and that leads into “Perpetual Generations,” which turns down the intensity decibel-wise but not emotionally. The vocals are cleaner and headier (they remind me of Folk Implosion’s “Natural One,” quite weirdly), and the melodies just soar. It’s one of the more approachable songs in their catalog. “Holes in the Desert” is both savage and nighttime cool, especially when the keys bleed in, and Stavros Giannopolous and Dave Kush take turns hammering out the message. The title cut settles into a satisfying slow-tempo groove, before shoegaze lightning dashes across and lights up the sky, with a final salvo of, “The sun burns out,” delivering a sober reminder of what’s at this planet’s end. “Courage” has more slinky, frosty keyboard work and would be the real oddball of the record if closer “Horse Thieves” didn’t exist. That song sounds like Mike Patton at his most bizarre trying his hand at avant-garde doom metal, with horrifying shrieks, free-jazz horn skronks and squeaks, and a moody mud storm that ends this thing on a really ugly note. Ugly in the best way possible.

I’m not sure if everyone will have the same experience I did with this record and if it’ll alter the way you think about the Atlas Moth. Maybe your mind frame doesn’t need altered, but mine did. The Atlas Moth went from just another band whose music I happen to like to one that’s going to get significantly more play in the future. I’ve even gone back to “A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky” and am getting far more enjoyment out of it because I feel my ears are better educated or they just opened up a little to help me better appreciate this band. Hearing “An Ache for the Distance” makes me feel like I’m wrapping myself in a cold blanket of stars for a night of life-altering rest, where my dreams’ context, messages, hidden meanings and intentions are clear. I wake up a different person. It’s not every day a record makes you feel these things, so I embrace the gifts this album delivered and will try to do my best to spread them around to other people.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy “An Ache for the Distance,” go here:

For more on the label, go here: