Review Summary: A rare treat within the realm of atmospheric metal.
I wonder how many people remember the first time they heard a new band or genre that immediately caught their attention. There was probably a certain level of exhilaration that came with the discovery, one that prompted a desire to find as many similar artists/albums as possible. Chances are the highest levels of excitement or surprise came about while still young and unaware of the diversity of music available. As the years wear on, though, that feeling of excitement seems to occur less and less until eventually it starts to seem there's really nothing exciting or new out there anymore. Becoming a music reviewer where you're expected to analyze and dissect every album while slapping a generic quantifier onto it only seems to lessen the thrill of new music even more. That's why I was surprised when the debut album by Atoma totally caught my attention and even brought back a little bit of that 'thrill' I hadn't really felt in quite a while. Don't stop reading right there, though, because I'm not trying to imply Skylight
delivers something new and groundbreaking or that it is even going to appeal to everyone in the same way. What I am saying is that Atoma have taken their particular style of atmospheric metal about as close to perfection as I've heard in quite some time.
begins with an intro that establishes the multifaceted approach the band will use over the course of the album. There's the big atmospheric build-up, waves of keyboards, programmed beats, strong guitar melodies and an abstract vocal delivery. From that point on, Skylight
takes the listener on a journey that begins with a prominent doom/post-metal angle complete with big riffs, powerful drums and death growls, but it ends up somewhere totally different. For one, the growls on the second track are the only place they're found. From there, the band are more inclined to use a soaring vocal delivery that is really just another instrument used to contribute to the overall vibe of each song. Also, with each subsequent track, the band moves further away from the initial post-metal/doom foundation and more towards a melody-and-reverb heavy sound more similar to the shoegaze genre. The instrumental sections become longer and more prominent, the keyboards slowly become more ambient in nature, and the vocals become part of the whole instead of a key feature. This eventually leads to the point near the end of Skylight
where the band can play a song such as "Solaris" – which owes more to the early ambient sounds of The Orb
than to any metal band – and still have it blend seamlessly with the earlier heavy tracks. This change culminates with the track "Rainmen" which ends up sounding more like Slowdive
or My Bloody Valentine
than anything else; complete with waves of synth and female vocals.
These days, it's hard for me to be truly impressed with anything I hear (Anathema
being an exception), but that is what Atoma have accomplished. Over the course of its runtime, Skylight
takes the listener on a trip that begins with a keyboard-heavy trek through post-metal soundscapes and doom-laden melodies before slowly evolving into a chill, catchy shoegaze style by the time it's over. In between, Skylight
impresses with its deliberate transition which finds heavy riffs and gritty vocals slowly replaced with mellow proggy melodies, increasingly ambient keyboards, and a slow build-up of atmospheric passages. So, while Atoma aren't reinventing any genre, they deserve a lot of credit for creating a very solid, compelling work within the realm of atmospheric metal.