Downfall of Gaia renew black metal aggression, launch bleak sorrow into punishing ‘Atrophy’

downfall-of-gaiaDoom and gloom is thick and heavy. It feels like 2016 has been a struggle from day one, as humanity has taken many steps backward and people are dropping dead left and right. The status of the United States is kind of a trainwreck as well, and the arrival of the darkest seasons of the year could not have come at a better time.

With that said, it’s a great time to settle down with “Atrophy,” the stunning new record from Downfall of Gaia. You want to be smothered into the ground and left for dead? Then this is the record for you, because you will not come away uplifted with your spirits soaring. But if the darkness is something you embrace right now and you cherish music that can wallow along with you, this will feel like the perfect companion in the shadows. On a less foreboding note, this also happens to be the best music Downfall of Gaia have offered up to date, an album that feels fresh and monstrous from listen one, and their passage back to their heavier, angrier roots was a great move to make this a memorable album.

downfall-of-gaia-coverDownfall of Gaia have been laying waste for the past eight years, starting out more as a crust-heavy behemoth that seemed like an unlikely pairing with one of the top metal labels in the world. Yet, they caught the attention of Metal Blade and delivered their stellar second record, 2012’s “Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes,” one of the bleakest, most punishing albums ever released by the esteemed label. Their last album, 2014’s “Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay,” wasn’t a bad effort at all, but it seemed to run in place a bit. The album wasn’t the step forward I expected and fell a little flat. But “Atrophy” steers the ship in the right direction and rages forward, as the revamped lineup of long-time members Anton Lisovoj (guitars/vocals) and Dominik Goncalves dos Reis (bass/guitar) team with brand-new guitarist Marco Mazzola and drummer Michael Kadnar (who played on “Aeon”) to form a fierce group that should power this band well into the future.

The record opens with “Brood,” where noises that sound like a plane engine falling swarm, with drums ripping through that and the song exploding in earnest. Wild cries lacerate the senses, as a black metal-drenched pace is achieved, and feral melodies drip all over. Massive sounds cascade, while a rush of energy, animalistic howls, and the return of that doomed engine round out the track. “Woe” is fairly uptempo at the start, with the band thrashing wildly and guitars calling out in the night. Throaty howls and nasty growls team up, while the drumming just blisters, and the tempo wrecks your already bruised wounds. Some atmosphere is led into the scene before sucked out into a black hole of volatile shouts and panic that eventually trickle off.

“Ephemerol” has a clean beginning with melodies fluttering over top before it blasts open sans warning. Gruff growls and a stabbing pace create havoc, while the bulk of the song goes for the jugular again and again. A cold, murky passage arrives later on, but that ushers in charnel guitars and a gazey finish that leaves you staring blankly into the sky. “Ephemerol II” is a bit of a breather, as over 2:21, noise spits, chilling guitars bring soothing cool, and the madness is permitted to evaporate. The title track follows, as gigantic black metal-style riffing hulks all over everything, and the growls look to smear your face into cinders. Melodies surge, but so does violence, slipping into a cloud-covered guitar glaze that hints at serenity, but lies. The crushing strikes anew, as the wails obliterate hopes, an onslaught of sound suffocates, and a power explosion wraps the cut. Closer “Petrichor” is an instrumental that slowly unleashes its intent only to speed up suddenly and spray shrapnel. That burst is short lived, yet effective, as the final minutes are built on pianos and calm after the destruction, as you gaze at fiery hillsides and choking smoke pockets that line your field of vision for miles.

Downfall of Gaia sound channeled and deadly on “Atrophy,” and I enjoy it every bit as much as their 2010 debut “Epos.” Spilling in more black elements was a wised choice, and the viciousness and morbidity that are smeared over this record give it a nice bloody stench. This is a band that deserves your attention, and they have a rock-solid new record and powerful back catalog to stand as all the reasons why you’ll ever need.

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