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Review : Atramentus - Stygian by Distorted Sound Magazine

Via DisortedSoundMagazine : "There are some things which improve with time: wine, certainly; leather boots, usually; bass strings, sometimes; but doom metal? Stygian was written in two sessions nearly eight years ago, but was only recently put to tape. The members of ATRAMENTUS are a veritable who’s-who of the Quebec underground, sharing musicians with ZEALOTRY, CHTHE’ILIST, GEVURAH and more. Almost a lost album, it’s one of those anomalies which rarely fail to create a microcosm of anticipation. There is a sense in which this album is a relic of a bygone era, before the funereal, epic style of doom was popularised by BELL WITCH. Outside of a small circle of enthusiasts, writing twenty-minute long songs with titles like Perennial Voyage (Across The Perpetual Planes Of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards) would have been met with derision or mockery, but in a post-Mirror Reaper and SLEEP-reunion world, anything seems plausible.

The album has a suitably grand concept, a “nameless knight’s saga”, which documents the world-weary warriors journey through an extinct, sunless world – perpetually burdened by his memories and grief, and unable to die. There can be little doubt that ATRAMENTUS owe a creative debt of sorts to a certain video-game franchise (“Praise the sun!”), and Stygian is definitely an exercise in world-building. From their lyrical press-release to the hyperbolic credits (“Six-Stringed Glacial Blood-Steel Intonations”) this is a band that either has their tongue firmly in cheek, or who have taken their role-playing fantasies far beyond the board.

For the uninitiated this pretence could come across in poor taste, but either way, there can be little argument as to whether ATRAMENTUS have been successful in their world-building. Stygian is rich in musical flourishes and differentiated movements, which makes it feel epic and journey-like without being sparse. If you can bear the pace, which is not (in relative terms) that slow, then there is plenty of nourishment for the attentive listener.

Stygian is an immersive experience, to be sure. Unlike other bands playing in the funeral doom style, ATRAMENTUS take a ‘more-is-more’ approach to instrumentation; marshalling synthesisers, piano and more to create their bleak, sunless world. Lewandowski’s artwork draws you in, and ATRAMENTUS’ grand pretensions sustain you, but there is a high entrance-fee: this album demands every ounce of your patience. Where other epic-style bands will meander towards a significant musical ‘pay-off’ in each movement, be it a resolving chord or tempo change, ATRAMENTUS prefer to let these musical ideas unfold more gradually – across the whole album, in fact. Stygian’s conclusion is all the more potent for having been painstakingly anticipated over three-quarters of an hour, but it’s also difficult to match the weight of expectation which has developed in that time. Insofar as Stygian has a destination there will be many for whom the journey was in vain, but sightseeing in ATRAMENTUS’ dead world is delightful and devastating in equal measure.

ATRAMENTUS deserve praise for their ambition, and the extent to which they have realised it. The album immerses its listener in a dismal world; offering exhilarating heights of intensity and peaceful pools of reflection. ATRAMENTUS are content to allow tension to fester and grow across an entire album, before summoning the impetus to resolve it. Stygian has been almost a decade in the making; this is ripe and accomplished musicianship, delivered on a grand scale." 9/10 Originally written by Jack Moar for

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