The Atlas Moth continue with altering metallic colors, push cosmic tentacles on ‘Coma Noir’

When choosing a living thing after which to name your band, you’re likely going to pick something tough, rugged, and/or resilient, right? Especially if you’re a metal band. Imagine choosing something that doesn’t even have a mouth and, thus, is only able to live for a few days because it can’t nourish itself. That’s not as tough as a tiger or a lion or snake.

Yet, the Atlas Moth grabbed onto that giant saturniid creature that primarily lives in Southeast Asia and named their band after it, its suspect post-larval survival skills notwithstanding. And it’s worked for the Chicago band, whose style and approach match the multi-colored wings this creature sports. So what if it lives for a precious short time? While it’s here, it’s fucking magnificent, and that same thing can be said about this band that keeps coming back with a different approach on every record. Now comes their fourth effort “Coma Noir,” their first for indie powerhouse Prosthetic (their last two were issued by Profound Lore), and it’s yet another building block for the band—guitarists/vocalists Stavros Giannopoulos and David Kush, guitarist/synth player Andrew Ragin, bassist Alex Klein, and drummer Mike Miczek. The band maintains their metallic edge, but they mix in even more colors, some of which are psychedelic, while others are cosmic and atmospheric. The band won’t be foreign at all to those who have been along the ride the entire way, but you should expect new twists and turns.

The title track starts the record, as the track crushes and rumbles, and the cries emitted are practically strangling. The words are spat over the chorus, while melody mixes in like a streak of blood, and the track comes to a sludging, crazed finish. “Last Transmission From the Late, Great Planet Earth” is muddy and harsh as you’d expect, as the pace drives hard, the synth envelops, and the cosmic fog settles. Textured guitars feel trippy, and the song comes to a strong end, barreling into “Galactic Brain.” There, keys zap, as the band hits a groove that might remind some of Metallica’s “Load” era, but not in a gross way. “Are you listening to the rhythm of the sea?” is belted out, while shrieks stretch over top the melodic energy. All the elements build up and threaten to topple, as punishing screams take us out. “Streets of Bombay” is the longest cut at 7:08, as the drums make their push, the synth thickens, and the song tears open. The track is an endurance test, as growls and clean singing vie for position, while the band delivers deadly force and sweeping melodies that quiver and hammer. Toward the end, the guitars bleed color while the tempo stomps, and the track falls away.

“Actual Human Blood” is bludgeoning and intense, with animalistic shrieks and melodies spilling beneath the carnage. The song clubs away, but there’s a sense of cleansing as well, as the band warns of a force coming for us all, insisting it will take us all away. “Smiling Knife” has guitar stabs, yelled vocals, and a grimy underbelly. The screams feel like ones learned by studying the Faith No More playbook, while cool soloing soothes, and the track comes to a violent end. “Furious Gold” has static and grim cries, while the guitars destroy, and melody and mud mix. The track is spacious and infectious, while the gaze sprawls, clean singing emerges, and the track has an icy finish. “The Frozen Crown” has electronic pulses, as the question, “Do you ever wonder if your brain’s been disconnected?” is posed. This is the one song where my mind begins to wander elsewhere, which I don’t expect from an Atlas Moth cut. It finishes up a little stronger, but I could live without this one. We finish with “Chloroform,” as militaristic drums spatter, screamed verses and painfully sung choruses unite, and we’re off into a thrilling pocket of strangeness. The track gets eerie and dark from there, as doom seems imminent, horns swell, and the track ends in squealed shrieks and blistering fire.

The Atlas Moth’s metamorphosis is a never-ending process, and with each new chapter, the band figures out new ways to enrapture and enlighten us. “Coma Noir” is dark and punishing but also something that could have them grabbing the attention of those who may have been on the fringe before. This is their biggest, boldest record yet, and it could pay off with a nice bump in their number of devotees.

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