Motorowl – Atlas Review

Band: Motorowl
Album: Atlas
Label: Century Media
Genre: Progressive Metal
Country: Germany
Release Date: 27 July, 2018

This second album by German band Motorowl sees the group take a bit of a shift stylistically from their first record. It’s nothing major, no shocking turn from one sound to another, but you will notice a difference if you’re a fan. There’s a smoothing out of the sound and an adding of textures that makes everything feel fuller and rounded. In a way, I liken it to when Rush started adding more keyboard and consolidating their ideas, giving the band a gleaming sheen rather than a raucous rock sound. Guitarist and vocalist Max Hemman has said that each song is based more on emotion and I can totally hear that. The music goes where the heart takes it, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s bits of Maiden in here, along with some Sabbath and plenty of dashes of German Kraut Rock. I wouldn’t say this is a full-on Prog Metal record along the lines of someone like Dream Theater, but it certainly does wear its Prog stylings like a badge of honor. There’s lots of heavy here, too, the guitars never once ducking down or going into hiding. This thing rocks, let there be no doubt, but it does it in a more…shall I say, “classy” kind of way? Things never teeter out of control and there’s no danger here. It’s all smooth and brilliant and painterly and is the kind of Metal you could play for friends who aren’t into this style of music and they wouldn’t run away screaming. Again, I’m not trying to downplay the Metal aspects, but it’s pretty clear this isn’t some wild ride into a dark night, but rather a mature band dealing with concepts and ideas beyond just banging your head. Look at the cover art and you’ll get an immediate idea of what you’re getting into here.

Some songs that stuck out for me:

Opener “Infinite Logbook” is a bruiser, coming in on a great, almost understated riff, followed by a sweet 70’s-style keyboard riff that really enhances the feel of the song. The vocals are smooth and sleek, the bass and drums filling that bottom end perfectly. The song really sets the table for the feast to come: you’re going to get some nice guitars, some cool keys, and refreshing vocals. The guitar solo is a perfect example of what Hemman was talking about in the approach to this recording: emotional, full of passion.

“Atlas” is a slow one, revealing the band’s Doom roots still hold firm and true. They really convey the weight and heft of someone trying to hold up the sky, but they do it using atmosphere rather than crushingly heavy guitars. Oh, it’s heavy, no doubt about it, but there’s lots of uplifting vocals and the keys again play a, um, key role in the overall feel and sound. Kudos to the drumming here, as well, Martin Scheibe just flat kills it.

“Cargo” carries the cosmic theme that seems to run through the music, if not exactly the lyrics. This one runs forward like a spaceship opening its sails to catch the cosmic winds. It lifts up slowly and builds speed, always full of energy and grind, cruising and flying along towards its destination.

Atlas reminds me of albums that came out in the late 90’s. It definitely has the feel of a CD-era proggish Metal band. It slides right along, easy and sweet to the taste. If you’re a fan of polished, professional music, you’re going to love this. There are no rough edges and there’s a TON of guitar and keyboard hooks to hang your hat on. Elegant, classy, dynamic and heavy, if you’ve never listened to Motorowl before, this is one hell of a way to start.

Rating: 8/10

1. Infinite Logbook
2. The Man Who Rules the World
3. Atlas
4. To Give
5. To Take
6. Cargo
7. Norma Jean

Total Playing Time: 45:04

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