Noctambulist – Atmospheres Of Desolation

Rating: 3.5/5
Distributor/label: Blood Harvest
Released: 2018
Buy Album: https://helterskelterproductions.bandcamp.com/album/atmosphere-of-desolation
Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/noctambulist303/

BAND LINE-UP:

S.M. – Vocals,
A.T. – Guitar,
R.H. – Bass,
M.N. – Drums.

TRACKLISTING:

1. Dimming Lights Illuminate
2. Abnegation
3. Atmospheres Of Desolation
4. Jubilant Cataclisym
5. Denial Of Autonomy
6. Habitual Falsehood

REVIEW

As a critic, it’s interesting to read other reviews before starting your own. Not necessarily to source inspiration, but it’s similar to discussing a film seen with friends (albeit very one-sided). In this instance, it’s intriguing to see from which angle others approach an album, and by what standards they are adhering to in order to decide on the material’s quality. Very often it’s a one-thought type thing: is it heavy; is it brutal, etc.?

With a band like NOCTAMBULIST, it pays (okay, it doesn’t) to consider the sum of the parts. Formed in 2016, they are purveyors of “devouring vortex of dissonant death metal with an almost levitational aspect” and “acute attention to atmospheric detail and eerily melodic coloring (sic)”. So there’s no point in considering it solely for heaviness, and not solely for atmosphere. Why not both?!

“Atmospheres Of Desolation” is not a nice album. Now that might seem like a critic bomb right there, but that’s not the review in-brief (though that’d be handy, as quittin’ time approaches and the pub is calling). What is meant by such a statement is that the album’s overall sound is incredibly uncomfortable. There’s dissonance in spades and a wicked approach to death metal as a whole that reeks of fetid putridity. Yet, that’s a good thing.

The album opens in ear-grating fashion, with “Dimming Lights Illuminate”, somewhat ironically, casting a grim and gloomy spectre over the world amid coarse screams and doom-laden chords. That’s just the brief intro track that sets the stall for the crazed freneticism of “Abnegation” – all drum blasts and dissonant riffs, tied together with a terribly suffocating atmosphere. The production somewhat aids this, in a way; clean, yet erring just towards the southern end of raw. There’s a little bit of resemblance to Australia’s BEYOND TERROR BEYOND GRACE about “Atmospheres Of Desolation” – speed, atmosphere and terror all wrapped into one scary package (incidentally, Merry Christmas readers!)

The atmospheric elements come to a head with the almost emotive “Jubilant Cataclisym”, with the track reliant on wicked, arpeggiated chords that are often chilling. It’s not as if the speed is absent, as it is used sporadically to wonderful effect. But the lull works deliciously to prick the ears up as the album progresses. Said speed certainly makes a return on subsequent tracks, with the mammoth curtain call of “Habitual Falsehood” collating all the band’s key ingredients to one final blast. But it’s that attention to atmosphere that works delightfully well.

Despite the obvious positives outlined above, NOCTAMBULIST aren’t the easiest band to listen to on evidence here. There’s little to cling on to amidst the brutal aural onslaught, with the dissonance and speed offering little memorability shortly after the album’s close. There’s few breaks to draw breath, much less to delve into deeper, and that hurts the album somewhat. Despite the ferocity, it’s still ultimately a slice of death metal and one we’re all familiar with. No reinvention here.

That being said, we all have a favourite food that we come back to again and again. It might be the same old, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Think of “Atmospheres Of Desolation” as a bloody hot chilli that’s an extreme flavour and sensation in the short-term, but a blur for subtleties beyond that. NOCTAMBULIST’s debut is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those with nervous dispositions, but it’s a grim, frosty debut that will be well worth your time. Despite the flaws, it’ll be interesting to see where this Denver outlet goes in future.

REVIEW BY LEE CARTER
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