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Evoken – Atra Mors

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That Atra Mors, Evoken’s new album, is so devastatingly heavy and lush is not an accomplishment in and of itself – though it is devastatingly heavy and lush. But in a genre as well-worn as funeral doom (can’t believe I just typed that), it would have been easy to copy the moves, and to stand on the shoulders of giants. A survey of the metal landscape in 2012 reveals more than a few bands opting for that route, and hey, not that many people aside from a few whiny bloggers (ahem) really give a shit whether or not you reinvent the wheel.

No, Evoken deserve our hearty congratulations for taking that base – a lush bombast of overwrought synth textures, mystical chants, and thunderous doom chords – and folding in some discordant subterranean grit: scuzzy, divergent guitar harmonies, and general sonic filth that draws the funeral doom sound from its storybook settings into a place more contemporary, real, and – frankly – scary.

There’s a lot to digest here, with many threads introduced then interwoven; lotta ins, lotta outs. By the final track, “Into Aphotic Devastation”, you’re worn out, perhaps overstuffed with what you’ve just consumed. And that’s okay. This is a record with hard-earned riches, where your eye alights upon it on your shelf and you think to yourself, “ah, it’s that time again.” This is an album of blood, sweat, and tears; one to be savored, perhaps infrequently, depending how often you can handle a comet crashing into your skull.

To paraphrase a recent comment made by an insightful colleague, we need more “blood, sweat, and tears” albums like Atra Mors to replace the “serviceable” ones that clutter our soundscape, sometimes without us even noticing. Evoken strike me as a band that pour it all out for an empty venue, not just in terms of energy but vulnerability and evocative power, always striving to finish first even if there are no challengers. You may have noticed it’s getting a lot harder for bands to sustain their efforts in the current climate, let alone to opt for extra credit. God bless whatever thankless enthusiasm inspired Evoken to share an opus like Atra Mors with the world.

— Alee Karim

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