There is design and there is art. Design is the effective visual organisation of information, whilst art is the creation of something which evokes an emotion. I am aware of this on a daily basis in my professional life, and I cannot help but carry this kind of thinking across to my appreciation of music. There is a place for musical design and it is often occupied by youngsters attempting to recreate the brilliance of their favourite artists. Many of us have been there – I certainly have (and to an extent, still am), because pure musical art carries no guarantee of conjuring the desired emotions which music-lovers crave. Few musicians are able to cast aside all inhibitions, conscious and otherwise, to produce boundless art. From the world of extreme metal I would utter names such as Burzum, Deathspell Omega, Sigh and Ulver. And yes, these are all bands at one time or another associated with Black Metal. I put forth that Black Metal arose as a means of putting art back into extreme metal.
Atra Vetosus — a rare Tasmanian act — was formed in 2011 by two members who then expanded the project into a full band. I would not wish to cast assumptions on their age, but they design music with the enthusiasm of a young band. This is melodic Black Metal, but to me carries the production values and sensibilities of melodic Death Metal. Sweeping symphonies are trodden upon by precise blast-beats, stabbed by orchestral synths and interrupted by the whisper of acoustic guitar interludes. The overall tone of the album rarely strays from melancholy, yet the vocals are vicious and forthright. The list of ingredients is not unlike those that gave the world Dissection, yet the resulting broth feels somewhat different. The recipe has been updated to include a few clean vocal passages (which — as is common with recent bands — employ auto-tuning). In fact, there is overall a heavy Swedish sound to this — moments reminiscent of not only Dissection but Prophanity and At the Gates. The more Black Metal sensibilities echo Abigor’s work, though with less bitterness.
The discerning Black Metal fan will by now have a good idea what to expect from this. It is well-executed and an album that the band themselves should be proud of. The question lies with the listener in: Do you care for well-designed Black Metal? Atra Vetosus have all the hallmarks of melodic, symphonic Black Metal and although there is nothing unique in their approach they could feasibly go on to perfect a recipe first documented in the early 90’s. This will be a familiar but enjoyable trip for those who enjoy polished, expansive melodic extreme metal.
01) Skies of Obsidian Rain
02) A Palace Shrouded in Emptiness
03) The Spirit of the Forgotten Woods
04) Into the Dawnless Night [Interlude]
05) Under the Wings of Darkness
06) Nocturnal Winds
07) Tortured by the Light of a Thousand Stars
08) Far Beyond… [Outro]