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.
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