Atra Hora – Via Combusta

Draped in heavy shadows and dramatic breath, Via Combusta the new album from Russian death metallers Atra Hora is a powerful and impressive beast of a release which is as mesmeric as it is oppressive and intense. Skilful and accomplished the release is a magnetic corruption with evocative sounds and atmospheres in union with dramatic and darkly consuming intent. A stirring mix of melodic death and black metal with a kiss of pagan metal about its gait as well as wilful Mediterranean whispers, Via Combusta inspires imagery and thoughts alongside a hunger for its imaginative and rich sounds.

Atra Hora (Latin for Black Hour) began in 2006 and soon had the Russian underground metal scene paying attention with their demo They Go a year later. The original sound was a raw black metal which evolved as line-up changes ensued into the atmospheric death metal they ignite the senses with on the new release. 2010 saw their debut album Lost in the Depths released on Darknagar Records to strong and positive responses from fans and media alike. That same year saw another change as the band emerged with its current line-up of Alextos ‘Domination’ Georgiadi (bass/lead vocals), Yanis ‘Shaxu’ Georgiadi (guitars/ vocals), Genrih (drums/percussion), Nicolaos ‘Ijhi’ Stryukov (guitars), and Maria ‘Neit-Shu’ Georgiadi (keyboards). Together they have brought in Via Combusta, a striking release deeply influenced by the Greek culture, with three songs on the album being performed in the Greek language. Traditional flavours from the country run through the songs for a deep and impactful effect, their warmth and melodic grace a perfect companion and contrast to the harsher abrasive vocals and sounds.

The Pyatigorsk based quintet approach the ear with inviting rhythms and an excellent compelling bass riffs in opener Transmigration, the song an instant magnet to the ear. As the vocals scowl and growl with their coarse presence the keys swarm around the stirring core like aural mists bringing a heat to the directness elsewhere.  At times the song is openly infectious and in other parts steps away with a provocative stance to keep one intrigued and absorbed. It is a strong start but soon surpassed by following songs.

Escape and Hronos both raise the senses into further enthusiasm. The first is a charging multi paced bruising of pummelling riffs and sturdy rhythms alongside flames of creative guitars and subsequent melodic imagination which sparks up the emotions with its intense aural proposition. The track is permeated with a sinister air throughout which is speared with flames of precise sonic craft and muscular energies to tease and promote strong thoughts  The second of the pair is equally inciteful with the epic gait to its sound, its part symphonic evocative caresses matched by the coarse narrative and expressive vocals.

As the album progresses it gets better and better with the best song on the release in Στύξ (Styx) offering the deepest mesmeric wash. With Middle Eastern rhythms and glorious weaves of melodic grandeur the brief track is an irresistible engagement with the senses, the heart of the release and its themed sound.

The sparkling yet scarring Neo Aeon takes one on a flight of buffeting sonics and expansive melodic spirals whilst Σταγόνες Του Αίματός Μου and Phobos both bring new and unique journeys to explore and immerse within, the last a foreboding and vast soundscape of cryptic emotions and immense and skilled invention.

Once the final track Εντροπίαhas removed its last delicious shadow from the ear the feeling of something vast and intrusively pleasurable is the lead reaction to Via Combusta. It is not an album which has a fully contagious hold but never leaves anything less than intrigue and strong satisfaction within the listener during its presence. Atra Hora is a band opening up unique worlds with great imagination and skill and as the album indicates on the right path to major recognition.

RingMaster 09/10/2012

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Shturm: Karmaruna

If you are looking for some music to ignite emotions and the pulse rate then you can do far worse than checking out the new album from Russian blackened death metalers Shturm. Impressive on ideas and diversity and even stronger in their delivery the band have unleashed in Karmaruna an album that rages and rampages through the ear but with a defined craft and a wealth of refined thought.

Formed in 2003 the band has evolved through many line-up changes and a shift of direction from a formidable but raw and rough black metal band into a mightily creative and tight unit bringing multiple flavours and skills to their distinct and challenging sound. After the demo Shape of Chaos in their first year Shturm released their debut album Fresh Christian Meat in 2004. Without support the release had limited circulation and attention but still opened many ears up with its promising harsh sounds. The line-up of the band changed often through the years and by 2006 only guitarist/vocalist Adar remained from the founding members. The band also contained by this point fellow guitarist/vocalist Omuth and the pair took this year to reconsider and redefine the sound of the band bringing in a technical death metal vein that added a new brutal edge to their music. Lyrically too, the music took a new influence in the form of atmosphere and inspiration taken from ethnic music, the heritage of Maya and the nations of Oceania, and thoughts and ideas rooted in the wisdom and grandeur of the old ones.  By 2011 the stable addition of drummer Petreno and bassist Kane completed the current line-up and the new album Karmaruna was completed and eventually released via Darknagar Records in March of this year.

     Karmaruna is a refreshing release that though steeped in black/death metal has a fully flavoursome invention and energy that captivates from the start. The Krasnodar based quartet make every second on the album count whether in violating the senses with harsh and venomous intense riffs and aggression or by whipping them up into a very satisfied excitable state with searching melodic asides and imaginative classic metal toned guitar play that never allows predictability to show its face. There is so much going on that it takes numerous listens to feel the full depth of the release and even then subsequent plays still offers up a little something new.

After opening on the striking and provocative brief track/intro Wounds On My Hands the album erupts into a full rampage with Solitude Beside. The song immediately winds itself around the senses with a tight imposing groove and tumbling unpredictable rhythms. Like controlled chaos the track punctures the ear with a vigorously direct and unpredictable pace, its muscular intent capturing full submission within the first eventful and impressive minute. The vocals emerge in a combination of coarse growls, screamed venom, and a triumphant clean delivery which works wonderfully to match the also continuingly switching energy and sounds. The song is rock n metal at its best and the beginning of an imposing and thoroughly rewarding ride.

From here on in the album commands the senses, taking them on a heady ride of peaks with some heights loftier than others. The likes of My Life With Angel and its eager acute meandering creativity, the stunning consuming Eagles Above Tibet with its sirenesque ethnically fuelled beginning, and the harsh and emotive Bloodsimple like To Kapylavasta, all create soundscapes and sonically powered eager masses to immerse within to be pummelled and enflamed with unrelenting riffs and destructive rhythms.

The third of the just mentioned tracks along with Solitude Beside are the best tracks on the album but closely rivalled by songs such as the crushing and defiant In Us, the blistering invasive Remember Thy Name, and the stunning closing instrumental of Metal Music Artefact, the song ending the album with final proof of the excellent skill and songwriting craft of the band.

Karmaruna brings a heavy pressure and muscular mass from first note to last but within that there is the most inspiring and insightful creativity and imaginative display of sounds and ideas to ensure every moment is a feast of varied metal. Shturm may be classed as death metal but there is plenty for all metal fans whatever their preferred point of entry to deeply enjoy.

RingMaster 17/04/2012 Registered & Protected

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