Published Aug 19, 2020When the cult of Chthe'ilist insanely dreamed of the next chapter in the band's mythos, did they ever imagine it would come from another act? Chthe'ilist masterminds Phil Tougas (guitar, vocals), Claude LeDuc (guitar), Antoine Daigneault (bass) are joined by drummer Xavier Berthiaume (Gevurah) and keyboardist Francois Bilodeau in Atramentus, a newly anointed funeral doom band whose debut album, Stygian, shows cryptic signs of their previous work while forging its own cursed path ahead.
Atramentus slow down the tempo and turns up the decibels for lofty funeral doom in a dramatic departure from its band members' previous efforts, but there are some noteworthy similarities. Along with a connection to Chthe'ilist's lore, Tougas also brings over his inhuman clicking and croaking gutturals, which lend themselves well to the band's otherworldly sound. Likewise, Berthiaume offers more double kick drumming than is common for doom of this calibre.
That being said, Atramentus have etched their predecessors in runestones and are ready to put them to rest and move on, discovering their true nature in haunting screams and chanting vocals, clean guitar passages as brittle and cold as thin ice, and austere piano parts.
With an arsenal like that, it's safe to say Atramentus run the full gamut of funeral doom, from epic to extreme. Breaking their debut into two main movements, the band use the first part to explore the more bombastic sounds of old school Finnish acts like Thergothon, as "Stygian I" opens with massive piano chords tolling like a church bell, then throws open the doors of the underworld to unleash unfathomable amounts of grief and gain. The song maintains a sinister atmosphere, which contrasts well with the album's grim and sorrowful second half. "Stygian: III" bears more resemblance to Mournful Congregation in its melodicism, soaring lead guitars and near-progressive rock levels of dynamics, but briefly becomes full on forlorn black metal similar to old school Ulver in a stern act of iconoclastic genre blending.
In terms of minutes, Stygian turns up a bit short by doom standards. Still, there is something to be said about an album that leaves you wanting more, and some landmark funeral doom albums share a similar runtime. What Atramentus achieve in that time sets a new standard for doom from this side of the North. It's a devastating requiem to all things funerary. (20 Buck Spin) (20 Buck Spin)