Atavisma – The Chthonic Rituals Review

Band: Atavisma
Album: The Chthonic Rituals
Label: Memento Mori
Genre: Death-Doom Metal
Country: France
Release Date: 23 July, 2018

Atavisma are a four piece group from Paris, France and they deal in filthy buzz saw death-doom. The Chthonic Rituals is their first full length, and you really wouldn’t be able to tell; they’d fit in well with old genre stalwarts and the new wave as well. Atavisma’s sound is rooted in the old school but has that modern touch with a crushing atmosphere and occasional weirdo riffing. Overall what is on offer here is medium to fast paced death metal, and slow, crushing death-doom that borders on funeral doom at times.

The vocals are low and absolutely abyssal; coming up from the swampy murk below. L is the vocalist and lyricist for Atavisma. He did such an impressive job on the former, crafting a horrifying gurgling vocal performance, so I couldn’t really tell how he did on the latter. I found myself impressed consistently across the album at how and when the vocals joined the fray; nothing felt out of place or as a missed opportunity.

Guitars are played by G, and the bass is played by Waldo Losada, both of the utterly relentless black metal act Acedia Mundi. With Atavisma they craft music at a much different pace, but with the ability to switch into breakneck speeds in an instant. The entire atmosphere of the album is thanks to the guitar and bass; the feedback and buzz saw tones ripple across the landscape, crashing on the walls of the cave and rolling back.

Gabriel DeLoffre is the drummer on this album, and he does an incredible job. The drums know their place very well on this record; showing off when the music is chaotic, performing fills to keep the song fresh, and controlling the pace in the slower sections. Death-doom can be a tough genre for a drummer to really shine. Often the drums are an after-thought, or merely included as a necessity. Gabriel elevates his performance to something memorable on multiple occasions. Including the intro and outro drumming parts; the intro has a wonderfully jazzy feel to it, feeling fresh and improvised, and the closing also has the same touch as the drums crumble into the wall of feedback.

The glacially paced segments are some of my favorites on the album. The slow plodding dirges are nearly flawless in execution on any of the songs in which they appear. Without fail I’m swept up in the music every time one rolls around despite several repeat listens. The other side of the coin is the buzz saw death metal that Atavisma employ in their arsenal when the tempo picks up. While the faster parts are well executed, I feel that this band wouldn’t have been as impactful on me without the doomier segments. The Chthonic Rituals’ strength is in its ability to switch between the two effortlessly. Though I did often find myself pondering just how impressive a completely funeral doom song from them would be.

I will say that this album wasn’t the easiest to get into for me at first. From the way they created the atmosphere, to some of the use of ear-piercing feedback, and some excessively repetitive parts; this album didn’t instantly impart the good impressions I mention above. I stand by some of that criticism; namely the repetitive parts, and the feedback usage. Some of the feedback just got too intense, and I don’t feel it enhanced the song enough to be such a focal point. Repetition is something you expect in this genre, and most of the time it is exploited to great effect. However, a few moments were repeated to the point that I wanted to advance past that part just to hear the rest of the song. A Subterranean Life, the closing track, has both of these issues and yet still manages to be my favorite song on the album. The positive things I can say about this record, and the individual songs, greatly outweigh any negative.

Atavisma have a tremendous album in The Chthonic Rituals, as it shows a young band with boundless potential and a great sound. If you are a fan of the genre already, this is a must buy. If you are new to death-doom, there may be easier entry points, but this is certainly one to make note of and circle back. There isn’t much left of July, so I’m positive this is my top release this month, and I’m fairly confident it will have a comfortable spot in my top ten for the year.

Rating: 9/10

1. Chthonic
2. Extraneous Abysmal Knowledge
3. Sacrifice Unto Babalon
4. Invocation of Archaic Deities
5. Monoliths
6. Ashen Ascetic
7. Amid The Ruins
8. A Subterranean Life

Total Playing Time: 49:22

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