Returning after a decade long absence, those now loyal to the UK doom scene would be forgiven by most for being ignorant to Atavist’s namesake. However, it’s difficult to imagine the state of such atmospheric contemporaries such as Moloch, Wren and even Pijn without the existence of the band. Forming in 2004 and releasing two full lengths prior to entering hibernation towards the end of the naughties, to say Atavist were ahead of their time would probably be considered an understatement by some. Some could even say they were responsible for refining the atmospheric doom metal blueprint that many artists take heavy influence from today. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say Atavist’s decade long slumber has not been a tranquil one, something their devastating third full length III: Absolution attests to.
To be put simply, this is not what anyone in a socially acceptable headspace would call the sounds of the summer. Their first release on Candlelight Records, III: Absolution is an hour long dirge of dread presented via four expansive movements that just resonate essentially every negative emotion under a dim sun. Whilst the term extreme is hyperbolic in nature and often used without consideration, this is very much indeed an extreme record in every way possible. From the song lengths themselves to the emotion that’s not so much as palpable as it is absolutely asphyxiating, III: Absolution is only reserved for those who require aural grief as dense as sonically possible.
‘Loss’, the first of the four tracks within this release, immediately demonstrates this. An epic doom funeral march to unobtainable optimism, the track ebbs and flows between glacial metal suffocation and sombre violin orchestration courtesy of Winterfylleth’s Bianca Blezard. The juxtaposition, often presented in lulls of melodic minimum, adds tons to the emotional weight piled on over the course of it’s near 17 minute run time.
Whereas this opening focuses on emotional annihilation via forlorn melodics, second track ‘Struggle’ offers no such respite. It’s an onslaught of bile and misanthropy presented with ironised riffs so glacial they verge upon being distortion. As the track intestines and escalates over the course of quarter of an hour, even the most seasoned of doom fans may find themselves hoping for a change in tempo or escape from the walls of drone and bestial bellows. However, such hope is futile. This track is the very essence of Atavist’s thematic emotion – and in essence – an encapsulation of the widespread misery this year has played host to. It’s perpetual apocalyptical doom at it’s most steadfast and unapologetic – a musical pit devoid of light where misery manifests and undergoes metamorphosis. ‘Self-Realisation’, plays like a respite of this barren soundscape, but it’s subtle reintroduction of melody ensures an experience slightly more tolerable, if only by a fraction.
Final track ‘Absolution’ - like it’s name suggests – is a monolith. Towering obsidian in doom form that’s grounded by the frigid keys of Mark Deeks (Also of Winterfluth), it’s is easily the most accessible track present yet still a monumental challenge in itself. Across the 18-minute ode, subtle hues of optimism faintly shine against the dirge of doom blackness only before being bested and defeated by the overpowering density of hulking weight. As the string segment composed of Blezard and guest cellist Jo Quail blossoms magnificently, the emotional weight of III: Absolution finally comes crashing down in a moment of pure anguish. After all, they’re can only be absolute pain if one get’s a hopeful yet impossible glimpse of joy. As this hour long record exhales into silent ether, it’s inevitable that anyone would be fully emotionally drained by the arduous journey they just ensured.
In all, III: Absolution is doom orientated emotion at it's most authentically choking. The vast majority of the population will abandon this record swiftly - be it due to the relentless sonics or the emotions they fear to experience - but something truly immersive awaits those who can stomach it. Utterly, utterly engulfing and all annihilating, Atavist have weaved a breathtaking apocalyptic tapestry composed of only various shades of pain with their comeback release.