The first time I saw the Mariusz Lewandowski-created cover art for Atramentus’ debut record “Stygian,” it was a few months before it was released when 20 Buck Spin announced the record, and I immediately got lost in that image, wondering if it would equal the torment and doom that the vision seemed to promise. Turns out, I wasn’t prepared for how dreary and dark this three-track, 45-minute record actually was, as it delivers funeral doom in an extremely slow, Arctic-blasted elegance. It just gushes with frigid drama 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—weave their magic in other groups such as Chthe’ilist, Funebrarum, and Gevurah, all mighty and noteworthy, but this band and album could be their collective greatest achievement yet.
“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. “Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream in the Doleful Embrace of the Howling Black Winds)” is 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 exquisite, alien ambiance that takes over, ushering in moody guitars and beams of light that caress the frosty terrain. This record is a cold soul navigating the night, trying to fend off frostbite and hypothermia, attempting to figure out what actions could justify such a horrible curse. It’s the best funeral doom record not just of the year but in many years. (Aug. 21)
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/