The Atomic Bomb Audition rocket into doomy prog, metallic glory on adventurous ‘Future Mirror’

Photo by Rex Mananquil

Music is often described as cinematic and, while I didn’t do a search for the word on this site because I didn’t feel like it, I’ve definitely used the descriptor for plenty of bands and records. But most often that’s just because it’s a useful term to use to describe something that takes you out of your reality and into something dramatic and picturesque.

Sometimes artists intend that effect such as The Atomic Bomb Audition, whose run the past nearly two decades has been loaded with the intent to create something that should accompany a story on a movie screen. That was their focus when the band got going in 2004, but in 2022, a decade after their last release, they’re back with “Future Mirror,” a record that keeps their big vision intact but also packs that in with enough emotion and hooks to capture any heavy music fan. The band—guitarist/vocalist Alee Karim, bassist/vocalist Jason Hoopes, drummer/multi-instrumentalist Brian Gleeson, and The Norman Conquest, responsible for synthesizers, wurlitzer, Hammond B3, ARP 2600, farfisa, ARP Solina, Prophet 5, Eurorack modular, vocals—dug in and created something that makes your heart race but also maintains their storytelling tendencies. This record could charm listeners who embrace rock, metal, prog, you name it, and there’s so much richness baked in, it’s impossible to come away unaffected.

“Render” opens in a doomy soup, thick and bubbling, hearty singing getting deep into your bones. The guitars flood and amplify the emotion, spirited drubbing gets your juices flowing, and the keys blip, driving this thing deep into the cosmos. “Night Vision” could be the breakout of this collection, the bass driving hard, the guitars absolutely glimmering. The hidden gem here is the chorus, an energetic burst as you’re hit with the call, “It’s so dark but I know you can’t see me,” a refrain that will stick in your brain. There’s an undeniable late-era Rush vibe that fills with energy, and this whole thing is a blast of adrenaline.  “WNGTIROTSCHDB” is a brief interlude with Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock” dreamily buried deep within it, creating a strange aura that hangs around for a while. “Dream Flood” quivers in place, the bass reverberating, the keys giving off a psyche sheen. The sludge collects as the synth mesmerizes, a gritty chorus spits cinders, and the guitars slice through and add to the doom cloudiness.

“Golden States, Pt. 1” arrives amid guitars buzzing and the keys haunting, giving off an uneasy apocalyptic feel, as if there was a comfortable version of that. Militaristic drumming paces as the synth turns in alien frigidity, the power jolts, and everything turns breezy and fades off. “…Spells” is a strange interlude that contains children singing a song about witches and Halloween, moving through your mind and making reality seem unattainable. “Haunted Houses” follows, naturally, the longest track here at 9:56. Guitars drip as the playing slowly spreads, drone firing up and blackening, your imagination running wild. Doomy mauling begins the bruising as the vocals swelter with the wailing of, “You don’t know what you can’t see,” a sentiment that’s repeated throughout. The guitars scuff as a psychedelic edge cuts, an admission of, “I’m still afraid of ghosts,” strikes, and the playing amplifies your lingering fears. Closer “More Light” runs 8:36 and brings haunting guitars and gentler singing, the power gradually becoming a bigger factor. “Nothing changes what’s been done, there’s no way back to the past,” resonates as the words circulate in your head, the energy feeling not unlike Cave In’s spacier moments. Finally, the power bristles, emotions race to the surface, and the blood eventually runs dry.

It’s really difficult to put a finger on what “Future Mirror” feels like, as it’s all over the map in a really good, creative way. The Atomic Bomb Audition have made what’s likely their most approachable material to date, but they did so by leaving in the intricacy and challenges, making sure they expand your mind along the way. This is a record that certainly lives outside of metal’s terrain but will find favor within that world. It’s capable of so much more than boundaries offer, and it excels because of its ingenuity and heart.

To buy the album, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

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