Atrexial – Souverain (2017)

Spain’s Atrexial create a mixture of black and death metal, yet incorporate a great deal of dissonance and melody into their music. The record actually contains three foreboding soundscapes, all of which seem to fit the performance and don’t feel a waste of the disc’s fifty-five minute running time. Some pieces, like “Under The Scourge Of Lamishtu” feel more based in the grooves of death metal, yet still add in tremolos to keep up with the style. What’s more, is the band actually perform a great deal of guitar solos on the disc, there’s nearly one on every song. While some might feel that a moment of shredding can take away from the atmosphere laden within the performance, it feels as if Atrexial want to rock out more than they want to make some sort of grand ritual statement. The frontman is clearly versed in both a scowl and growl vocal, making for something that can sound at times like Behemoth and others like Mephorash or Deathspell Omega. It’s this level of variety that really gives the album a sense of itself, rather than being glued into one single genre constraint.

I think one of the last things that my colleague said before he left, was that black metal felt too tied down by disonnance. Every band at the time was trying to use a dissonant riff or two, and even though Deathspell Omega more or less pioneered it, that doesn’t mean that everyone in the genre needs to copy them. As with any industry trend, there were ten and twenty thousand black metal acts that adopted both occult mysticism and dissonant riffs in order to jump on the magick school bus.

Though the album seems a bit raw in some of it’s production quality, I’ll forgive it for sounding just a little tinny as that seems to be the aim of the recording. Obviously Atrexial wanted something that wasn’t only raw, but polished and this is where we end up with a very glossy sound. Souverain isn’t quite the “when you’ve heard one track, you’ve heard them all” sort of deal, but it certainly seems to edge that way towards the end. I heard less and less variation in the album, which isn’t uncommon; but certainly unfortunate. It isn’t as if these gentlemen didn’t have any fuel left after a certain middle point in the album, but feels more like a fault of genre constraint. They may play outside the lines, though not enough for me.

That being said, if you like this kind of black/death, you’ll more than likely find something here. I’ll even give them an extra point just for playing outside the lines and giving me something a little different to explore than what I’ve heard in countless other dissonant black/death acts, but once again; they still need to work their way out of that box.

(12 Tracks, 55:00)

8/10

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