Let’s talk about Transcending Obscurity Records for a minute. Based out of India, the label has only been around since 2013, but you wouldn’t know that when perusing all the quality metal on the label’s roster. In their five-year existence their amount of quality output is staggering. With bands like Marginal, De Profundis, Arkheth, Jupiterian, Paganizer, and Somnium Nox all releasing records on the label over the past year, Transcending Obscurity has quickly become a haven for some of the darkest, dankest, and most experimental extreme metal on earth. If you have yet to give their full roster a peak, start with the label’s 2018 sampler, which is about as awesome as such compilations get nowadays. With this label’s sterling reputation behind them, international funereal doom outfit Towards Atlantis Lights unleash their debut record Dust of Aeons upon an unsuspecting populace that is very unready to receive its sheer magnitude. Because magnitude it has in spades.
Somewhat of an international supergroup (with members hailing from bands such as Pantheist, Aphonic Threnody, and Void of Silence), Towards Atlantis Lights obviously doesn’t lack for a metal pedigree. But all the fantastic background in the world does not a good album make. To be honest, when I hear the term “super group” I cringe and immediately want to listen to literally anything else because, like many, my experience with such bands has been on the whole far less than pleasant. I won’t name names (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, YOU BASTARDS). Thankfully, Towards Atlantis Lights avoids the typical pitfalls of such projects by creating a debut record that is focused, powerful, and has an identity that is unique and recognizable as its own. In the able hands of vocalist and keeper of the keys Kostas Panagiotou, Riccardo Veronese on bass, Ivan Zara wielding the guitar and Ivano Olivieri’s thunderous drums, Dust of Aeons transports listeners to one of the most immersive sonic landscapes doom metal has produced this year. For those who like their doom ethereal, atmospheric, emotion-filled and sometimes even a bit death-centric, Towards Atlantis Lights have created a record tailor made to scratch your every doomy itch.
There are many things to commend Towards Atlantis Lights for, one of which being the sheer balls it takes to open your debut record with a thirty-minute death-doom epic. Yes, you read that correctly. Thirty-minutes. While not quite Bell Witch levels of intensity, a half-hour track that on its own makes up more than half the album’s runtime will most certainly be a primary factor in a record’s success or failure. In my estimation, such a ridiculously bold statement indicates two particular things: 1) The band’s utter confidence in the material being presented; 2) An assumption that they have enough to say to justify a thirty-minute track. In both regards the band succeeds and is justified in its decisions, as “The Bunker of Life” is a sprawling, diverse, cohesive doom metal track that incorporates so many fantastic elements that it’s hard to know where to start when discussing it. Panagiotou’s vocals vacillate admirably between reverb-infused, haunting cleans and devastating growls and snarls, while Ivan Zara’s guitar creates riff after back-breaking riff of death-doom fantasy. The keys also play an integral role in the song’s development, marking tonal and tempo shifts throughout in a compelling and deeply atmospheric way. Speaking of which, the general atmosphere across the entire track is immense and intense, covering the proceedings in a slightly spacy/cavernous shroud. The production on the track sucks in the listener in a way that allows the music to achieve maximum emotional and psychological impact. Peddling a similar atmosphere to that of bands like Inter Arma and Usnea, Towards Atlantis Lights works in a uniform aesthetic that feels like a consistent, fully contained world in which to inhabit. It’s truly a sensational ride that doesn’t once feel drawn out or dull. As a feat of songwriting prowess, it’s hard to imagine a more admirable and enjoyable achievement. If you’re still on board following that opening track, Towards Atlantis Lights has you right where they want you: Completely hooked.
The remainder of the album is no slouch, either. Comparatively lightning-fast “Babylon’s Hanging Gardens” is brimming with fantastically heavy riffs, juxtaposed neatly with a middle section that allows the album’s atmosphere to once again take firm hold, eventually leading to a militant, punishing finale that ends with the nearly buried sounds of a chorus of human voices lifting us to transcendent heights. Such small details are part of what make this record such a treat, as repeat listens lead to more enjoyment. The album’s third track, “Alexandria’s Library”, features another dense and spacy journey through the doom metal cosmos, with a particularly haunting vocal performance propelling the track through its various and highly melodic sequences. At sixteen-minutes, it’s another example of the band’s ability to fill very long tracks with very good ideas. The only minor issue I have with it (and, honestly, each track on the record to some extent) is the lack of punch in the mix for the drums. While Olivieri’s drum work is excellent throughout the record, the mixing can sometimes diminish the power of the kit (most notably in the bass section), leaving the rhythm section feeling a little too shallow or buried for my taste. But their presence is felt and appreciated throughout regardless, as album finale “Greeting Mausolus’ Tomb” closes the album out with a fantastic, rich instrumental ensemble, climaxing with a guitar duel packed with enough genuine emotion to rend a gaping hole in your heart. It’s the perfect cap to a truly mesmerizing, transfixing musical experience.
While there are many doom albums that feel heavy, punishing, ethereal, or demanding, there are very few that can combine those elements within a sense of overwhelming beauty. That is Towards Atlantis Lights, and I could not be more impressed with their debut album. It’s a stunning, cohesive, moving, and musically diverse experience that accomplishes its mission of total immersion with grace and aplomb. I am already giddy to see what this group releases next. If you are a fan of doom metal, please do not pass on this record. It’s a truly special achievement.
Dust of Aeons is out today on Transcending Obscurity Records, and is available for purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page.