(The year may be winding down, but it’s not over yet, and there are many more gems for Andy Synn still to uncover, including this one by Vertebra Atlantis, which was recently released by I, Voidhanger Records)
There are, let’s be honest, quite a few ridiculously talented individuals in the Metal scene, a revelation which I’m sure comes as a surprise to exactly none of you.
Take Gabriele Gramaglia (aka G.G.), the mastermind behind The Clearing Path, Cosmic Putrefaction, and many other projects (several of which we’ve also covered here at NCS in the past), whose songwriting skills and instrumental abilities are, by this point at least, pretty much beyond question.
The thing is, however, that while I absolutely loved Watershed Between Earth and Firmament (and still do) nothing else that he’s done has quite affected me in the same way, even though I’ve still been able to appreciate both the sheer amount of talent and the obvious dedication to his craft he’s shown with each and every piece of work since then.
That all changed recently though, with the release of Lustral Purge in Cerulean Bliss, the debut album by Vertebra Atlantis.
For whatever reason – whether it’s because Lustral Purge… is more of a fully-fleshed out collaboration between G.G. (who handles guitars, vocals, and synths) and his bandmates V. (bass/vocals) and R.R. (drums/vocals), or simply due to the more overt “Blackened Death” feel of the music – there’s just something about this album that clicked with me the very first time I heard it, with that connection only getting stronger with each and every listen.
Whether it’s the suffocating intensity, slithering, Morbid Angel-esque riffs, and subtly psychotropic melodies of opener “Agoraphobic Solipsist”, the anxiety-inducing dissonance and angular hooks of “Carnal Denouement”, or the doom-laden density and eerie, unsettling atmosphere of the title-track, pretty much every song here has its own distinct identity while also contributing to the greater whole and further establishing the band’s overarching character.
It’s also worth pointing out that, for a record which often seems to go out of its way to be as technically twisted and deliriously discordant as possible, Lustral Purge… is also disturbingly infectious at times – especially when the trio lock into a really nasty and abrasive groove – while the album’s combination of disharmonic lead lines and subtly tasteful (and slightly terrifying) synth work gives it a greater sense of depth and substance than, say, your average run-of-the-mill Ulcerate clone.
The band’s only real misstep (even mid-album instrumental “Altopiano Celeste” possesses a malevolent melodic grandeur which makes it a vital piece of the overall puzzle) is closer “The Hermit Strums a Mournful Dirge”, as while the track’s first half is an excellent example of how well Vertebra Atlantis are able to set the mood and the pace of their music perfectly, the second part fails to capitalise on this set up properly, its more Black Metal oriented approach ultimately sitting slightly awkwardly alongside the rest of the record.
Still, when everything lines up just right – as it does most of the time, especially on the fantastic “Saw Thee Quietly Inurned”, which is not only one of the most complex, yet catchy, tracks on the album, but which simply feels like a more natural closer than “The Hermit…” – there’s no denying that Lustral Purge… makes a serious impression, especially considering that this is only the band’s debut.
But, then, none of the trio are exactly new at this, so it just goes to show you that sometimes even the most talented of individuals just need to find the right collaborators in order to push themselves to the next level.