Metal acts deliberately reanimating the corpses of time-tested musical styles sometimes get caught in a nostalgia trap—I'm sure everyone reading this article can think of at least one band that's so caught up in '90s tropes as to become a joyless imitation. Contemporary melodic death metal, by contrast, sometimes veers in the opposite direction, with triggered drums, production so slick it's like a layer of cellophane and/or grand gestures that bog down in self-indulgence. More Necrophagist, less Imagine Dragons, thankyouverymuch!

The Atrophic clearly knows what I'm talking about. On their inaugural EP, Coagulating Mirth, the Raleigh duo throw back to a simpler time of pummeling rhythms and neck-snapping riffs that steer clear of shiny, overdetermined production yet doesn't feel stuck in the past. From the opening synths to the frantic polyphony that touches off second track "Misery's Grip," The Atrophic deliver on the promise of melodic death metal reborn. The immediate feeling of a listen through Coagulating Mirth is, "whoa, haven't heard something like this in a while!"

The EP also feels remarkably live for being the project of two dudes recording at home. This may be due in part to the expert eyes of Hannes Großmann (Eternity's End, ex-Necrophagist, Obscura etc.). With a veteran of some of melodic death metal's most beloved ensembles at the mixing board, these North Carolina newcomers have made something that feels seasoned.

Whatever questions of pedigree, production etc. you share with me, the heart of this detail-rich EP is the songwriting. Put simply, Coagulating Mirth is fun to listen to because it's good. That may sound tautological, but at no point do juggernaut tracks like "Vessels for the Oligarchs'' feel like they're aggressively trying to prove something. When riffs swirl out over the chords, they don't overstay their welcome. Furious fills and rattling blast beats don't drown out thrashy solos and mid-range vocal aggression.

These two and the session musicians who helped them spent their time getting this thing right. Says The Atrophic of their debut:

Coagulating Mirth is a snapshot and a surreal portrait of the times we’re facing today. The band was born during a global pandemic at a time when society is split across different ideological boundaries. We joined forces as a duo to develop music to challenge ourselves and share a vision of impending doom that consumes the zeitgeist.

Musically, our goal was to create something with darkness and intensity, with a heavy focus on melody and musicality. Our songs are technical, with intense riffage and soaring solos, but not at the expense of the songwriting. For us, songwriting always comes first.

Stream the full album below ahead of its release via Bandcamp on July 8th.



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