By John Sturm
Glasgow!!! What are you putting in your water (apart from Irn Bru)? Well based on the sounds from native sons Atlas : Empire whatever it is it’s good stuff. Bottle it and sell it! Formed in 2011, this band has managed to fuse a number of different styles together into one tidy package in the form of Somnus.
So what do we have on offer here over the 5 tracks? Well according to their Facebook page “A mixture of forward-thinking alt. rock, ambient electronica and emergent post-hardcore”. Well… yes. But a better way of putting it is a wonderful blend of emotions intertwined with musical moments of startling brightness and darkness. Onwards friends….
We begin with ‘Keep This In The Shallows’ and it’s melodic guitar washes heralding a journey to be undertaken, one that you’re not quite sure how it will end. Then the vocals enter and it all makes sense; its melancholic and uplifting. Dual vocal lines intertwining and soaring and sinking like birds in a stormy sky. ‘Mitchy Valentino Sleeps With The Fishes’ begins in a much more direct and upbeat manner with drums and pick scratches and has a great chorus that combines melodic singing with a throat scraping screams. Halfway through the song we're suddenly plunged into a staccato riff/drum section followed by some superb dual guitar melodies on a bed of crunching riffs. Outstanding work gents! ‘In The Arms of the Abyss’ has a wonderfully off kilter drum pattern as the vocals stretch for the high notes whilst complemented by great backing vocals. I love the bass sound in this track it rumbles away pinning everything together whilst screechy guitars add an oddball feel.
And whilst all of this is stellar music, it’s all really leading up to the track of the EP. Say hello to the utterly spellbinding ‘….Off The Map’. Words cannot describe how delicately fragile this song is. It’s a shame that I even have to try. If I could I would simply tell you to listen to it. But that’s not what you want from me! So…..
The picked guitars, snare rolls and wistful vocals are reminiscent of later-day Anathema. And much like that band this is song that stops you in your tracks. It seeps into your soul, forcing you to hit the Back button to play it again. And again. And again. Whether they wanted to or not, Atlas : Empire have created a song that exudes sadness and loss. In a good way. It’s like being aboard a raft that's sailing through the night into the dawn. Midway the guitars fuzz up and thicken up the sound. Then just as soon as they appear, they're gone. I really can’t tell you how much a love this song. Truly. It’s hard to follow up this track and whilst ‘Binary Lung’ is a more straight-ahead rock song featuring some impressively aggressive vocals, I’m still left itching to press the Back button once more.
This is a highly impressive album from start to finish. Conveying nuanced emotions and forthright aggression it covers all bases yet feels fresh, cohesive and satisfying. And with recent gig supporting UK prog icons The Pineapple Thief, it’s clear that I’m not the only one who will fly the flag for this band and recognises just how great their sound is. Get this EP, get to a gig and thank me later.