Sitting here in almost-middle August, a day when it’s a legitimate 92,000 degrees outside, it’s really hard to even think about winter, a season I’m sometimes convinced doesn’t really exist here on the East Coast anymore since it never really comes. But arrive it will, in whatever form it takes this year, and who knows, it might even snow a few times so that I can use the bag of rock salt I bought last year.
A much closer glimpse into the coldest season of the year is closer to you than you think in the form of “Stygian,” the stunning debut record from Quebecois funeral doom unit Atramentus. As much as we love that style of the sub-genre over here, it’s not like it’s easy to produce, as a lot of bands try their hands and fail, forgetting that you must weave in something memorable while you’re playing S-L-O-W-L-Y. Atramentus didn’t leave this part behind, as on this three-track, 45-minute ops they pack the thing with majesty, drama, and cold darkness, following the tale of a nameless knight granted immortality through the gift of God’s sword, only to watch the world die all around him, leaving him to wander, unable to perish, in a world of cold and unforgiving blizzards. The band—vocalist/guitarist Phil Tougas, guitarist Claude Leduc, bassist Antoine Daigneault, keyboardist/dark element conjurer François Bilodeau, drummer Xavier Berthiaume—ply their trades in other groups such as Chthe’ilist, Funebrarum, and Gevurah, though the madness in which they indulge here is different than what they achieved elsewhere.
“Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth the Ceaseless Darkness)” opens the record and runs a healthy 16:28, starting with keys chiming and Tougas’ lurching growls boiling over. Guitars drain into a freezing funereal pace as glorious leads flood with light, while deep croons slither into another section of bubbling growls, and keys glimmer and cause you to shield your eyes. The pace slowly melts into a cloudy storm that dominates the horizon as the growls scrape, and blood drains from your face. Synth winds blow as strange words are spoken in the distance, letting the drums pound into “Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream in the Doleful Embrace of the Howling Black Winds),” a bridging ambient piece where sounds shuffle and float into darkness. Keys create a wall of sound while voices quiver, and the dark ambiance leads us to our final chapter.
“Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across the Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards)” ends the album, a 23:17-long finale that feels like it drips in slowly from the atmosphere, as Tougas’ voice creaks, and strangeness is in the air. Guitars give off a classic psyche haze while deep growls shove along, meeting with an elegant, alien ambiance that takes over, ushering in moody guitars and beams of light that caress the frosty terrain. The pace floats slowly into a mystical fog, bathing in synth and gothy tidings, opening the door for the growls to live again. It feels like the track is going to succumb to the ice, but then then the tempo is shredded, the drums crush, and a speedy fury forges ahead, burying the track in a fiery grave that later is extinguished by wintry winds.
It might be swelteringly hot where a lot of us live right now, but Atramentus’ incredible debut offering “Stygian” might help you get lost in an icy world of never-ending torment that’s at least different from the one in which you’re trapped. On top of that, this is top-shelf epic funeral doom, the type that really doesn’t come along that often, so you embrace it while you can. This record was highly anticipated over here, and every moment of this three-track opus totally delivers.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/AtramentusDoom
To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/atramentus
For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/