Review Summary: This is what death metal feels like.
A lot of the best and most effectual moments for me in death metal are what I like to call “modular moments”. They’re usually bound to intros, breakdowns or bridges, outros, and the like. They centre around distilling the music’s essence and centre into a more atmospheric or concentrated sound. The creepy, undistorted picking of guitar strings, or the boiling down of a riff into a long-winded break that enhances the spirit or vibe of a song into something much more fulfilling than if it were just a barrage of unrelenting riffs from start to finish. They give it that horror-film feel. These modular moments separate the dullards from the truly horrific and naturally compelling death metal bands that understand it’s about more than a hard riff. It’s about controlling a dynamic sound. No band has ever done this better than when I first heard Ataraxy’s Revelations of the Ethereal
in 2012. They’re the first and only band I’ve ever heard that seems to compose their death metal entirely around these modular moments. Some call it doom, but it’s a little different from that. They’re not just slowing their riffs down or injecting a heavy metal influences, they’re distilling their pure, 100% death metal riffs into atmospheric modules that expand and encompass an entire song, enveloping the listener in one of the most identifiable and immediately poignant sounds of the genre. You know Ataraxy when they’re playing. They don’t sound like anybody else—not for unique death metal, but for their unique construction of the genre’s greatest strength.
Where All Hope Fades
is no different and, in fact, takes it one step further. Ataraxy’s second album doesn’t forgo what made their debut so special, and continues this tradition of angular, creepy, and atmospheric death in even greater long-form compositions. Twelve-minute closing track ‘The Blackness of Eternal Night’ exemplifies this, a true monument to the style they’ve built. Long, winding labyrinths of gently layered guitars play over the oozing ahhs of the chants, synths, or hums that serve as the backdrop. The drums slowly plod forth until the distortion hits the guitars, supplanting the same ghostly melody with death metal rhythms and heaviness. The vocals howl in blood-curdling sickness. And the pace builds into a full-blown death metal riff-fest, evolving and changing within the bounds the band has created. After this initial precedent has been set, the rest of the track ebbs and flows back and forth with this dynamic of heavy, rhythmic death metal, and the modular moments the complement the riffs through refined means and tension.
Ataraxy continue to prove that they’re one of the most interesting and effectual bands in death metal today, both continuing the genre’s earliest traditions and expanding them to create not only an album that sounds great, but feels substantial and memorable even after a cursory listen. Ataraxy define themselves where so many other bands fail to do so. This is what death metal feels like.