Three years after An Ache for the Distance, Chicago-based post-metal monsters The Atlas Moth return to bestow unto us The Old Believer, a 50-minute marathon across ten massive-sounding tracks. Having reached untold heights with their sophomore album, The Atlas Moth now turn to explore a duality that is present in all excellent post-metal releases. That duality is the tension between the emotion laden power of screams and riffing on one hand and the cool depths of somber singing and resounding chords. The Old Believer is a meticulous alchemy of this tension, transforming familiar approaches into something much more. This album is by far the most convincing of their releases, carrying with it clarity and obscurity in equal measure.
From the very first track it becomes apparent that quietness is not the tool that The Atlas Moth utilize to create their tension. Instead, their chiaroscuro lies not in stopping and beginning again but in changing the balance between the two distinct vocal styles present in the album. This duality quickly turns into a quadruple arrangement: instead of coupling the screams with heavier instruments and the clean singing with more dreamy passages, The Atlas Moth mix these elements in a heady broil of contrasts. This is utilized to full effect in the brilliant track ‘Collider’, one of the most impressive tracks on the release. The screamed vocals interact beautifully with far apart guitar notes, their tone clear and pure, instead of being consigned to live alongside heavier segments.
Jumping to the end of the album, ‘Blood Will Tell’ is an incredible track, magnificent as a closer, and another great example of the unique structure of the music to be found here. In this instance, the vocals mostly mix together, low and highs creating one incredibly fervent wall of sound. This would be a good point to turn the spotlight on to the instruments as well, especially the guitar. The riffs in the The Old Believer are a crucial part of its overall impact. Resounding notes more familiar to post metal fans are replete but where the band’s originality truly shines is through the riffs. Slow so they can fit in the general scheme of things but fast enough to provide plenty of hooks, their sound is just abrasive enough to get you listening. They are further amplified by astounding drums, all the more impressive for their refusal to surrender to genre conventions.
At the end of the day however, no amount of words spilled will convey the depth that this album contains. By addressing the duality mentioned above directly, The Old Believer is simply intense and evocative. Little touches, like the opening line to ‘City of Light’ and the following, bell-like vocals, or the visceral opening riff to the title track, elevate this release from a collection of interesting and well produced instruments to something more. This is what truly sets this album apart from their earlier releases: something feels more cohesive, more tuned in, both to itself and to its listeners. The Old Believer is, when all is said and done, an album of gravitas, weight and substance. It contains plenty of subtle flavors for exploration but also a grander scheme more befitting observation than analysis.
The Atlas Moth – The Old Believer gets…