Review Summary: Though the album doesn't take any huge leaps forward in creativity it does masterfully execute that which The Atlas Moth has come to be known for.
With 2014's The Old Believer
, Chicago's The Atlas Moth didn't quite seize the moment. Heads had been turned by their 2011 release An Ache For The Distance...
which was nearly perfect in it's execution of groove, psychedelia and post metal. The Old Believer
was unmistakably Atlas Moth-ian, and showed signs of maturity in lyricism and theme, but oft-meandering melodic sections without home run tracks like "Holes in the Desert" and "An Ache For The Distance" ended up holding the effort back from greatness. Coma Noir
comes along nearly four years later with another dose of psychedelic post metal, though this time the effort is considerably more focused.
Opener "Coma Noir" wastes no time setting the pace with some High On Fire-esque riffage and vocalist Stavros Giannapoulos' patented shriek throughout. Given the spacey openers of the last two efforts, the song is quite a surprise to unsuspecting ears, especially the outstanding breakdown halfway through the track which is the first taste of classic Atlas dual guitar leads and keys. Decidedly more metal than past work, and running at a higher tempo, the eponymous track ends up being an effective opener with respect to the mood of the rest of the album. "Last Transmission..." keeps with the heaviness, though the star of the track ends up being the 80's-style synths which permeate verses and breakdowns alike. Guitarist / vocalist David Kush continues with the trend hinted at on An Ache...
which came to fruition on The Old Believer
, carrying as much of a vocal workload as Stavros. This is first displayed on "Galactic Brain", a welcome track for fans of An Ache...
. The track's brooding riffs and moody leads, Stavros' increasingly intense shrieks and a hard, mid-tempo beat feel right at home after the aforementioned bangers. The band delves into near chaos with a mystifying end sequence nearly on par with the title track of An Ache
, and ends up being one of the most memorable tracks included.
As the album reaches the halfway point with "Actual Human Blood" it becomes abundantly clear that The Atlas Moth have not only found their proverbial groove again, they appear to have fully blossomed into the beast they've been threatening to become since 2009's A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky
. A bit of speed ended up being the perfect complement to the things that The Atlas Moth always had right, and several of the album's tracks run at a tempo that went previously unexplored. Even on tracks with eyebrow-raising oddities like "Smiling Knife", with it's jarring, uncomfortable verses, the band rights the ship by the end of the song via crafty leads or a heavy crescendo. Almost nothing feels out of place on Coma Noir
, and the band clearly let their inner metalhead emerge on tracks like "Furious Gold". In classic Atlas Moth fashion, though, the signature swirling, psychedelic leads are never out of reach and do a wonderful job of tying the album together. Coma Noir
's production is effective, eschewing the raw atmospheric blend of past releases for a more typical (though no less impressive) modern metal mix. Grooves hit harder and no element is left wanting.
Though the album doesn't take any huge leaps forward in creativity it does masterfully execute that which The Atlas Moth has come to be known for. In its worst moments, Coma Noir
fits in with The Old Believer
as comfortable, but ultimately unexciting. At best, the album is clawing at the heels of An Ache For The Distance...
as the band's most listenable and enjoyable effort, and appears to be one of 2018's early heavyweights.