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Drama is real, and drama is good. Super-atmospheric projects like Mesarthim and Earth and Pillars are necessarily dramatic: that's where the atmosphere is. Huge ascending synth passages, mind-numbing blastbeats, orgasmic climaxes and sharp drop-offs, etc. The point is to induce frisson. But you run the risk of getting cheesy. Like soap opera stuff. Even cringe-worthy, e.g. the artist being obvious in his/her attempts to create intense drama, maximum drama. Atmosphere is all about maximums: how does it feel to picture the biggest thing you can imagine?

There's a two-man band named Tanakh whose debut EP Unwilling (released January 19) demonstrates proper atmospheric drama, minus the cheese. They retained the all-important structures of black metal, doom metal, and death metal (their three areas of expertise) instead of simply replacing them with atmospheric elements. Another way to put it: Unwilling is decisively atmospheric, but not postmodern. You're not supposed to sit back and all-out "interpret" this one. The music itself is straightforward and isn't arranged into any mazes. Bonus: there’s an audio clip from True Detective nestled in there.

Tune out Unwilling's overlaying fuzz, hyper-stereo screams, gratuitous blast beats, etc. - all the atmosphere-creating bits - and a rock-solid metal album remains. It's the wide, oceanic feelings which amplify the novelty of the riffs, or the appropriateness of the gates-of-hell doom passages. Vocal layering and intense echoing/production help develop the psychedelic headspace in which the death metal sounds jarring, disruptive, but for positive affect. As refreshers/breaks, Unwilling occasionally opts out of the heavy atmosphere to be, just, heavy (check the beginning of "Nocturnus Infernus"). The vocals straighten out on occasion, guarded by razor-sharp riffing, to remind you that a metal album is going on underneath all the noise.

Combining all these elements without making a goddamn mess is impressive. Unwilling flows nicely but is reassuringly segmented. Only four tracks long, under 30 minutes, it's actually a pleasurable length. Bands who tinker with atmospherics can get easily long-winded, and that's avoided here. On Unwilling, atmosphere is put to work, employed for a clear purpose: to elevate the dramatic effect inherent in, say, a kickass death metal lick. You don't get lost in it, per se; this is certainly not a trance album. But for anyone who likes the more technical side of things, along with the spacey vibes, Unwilling shan't disappoint.

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Purchase Unwilling here.

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