Barcelona trio Atrexial display plenty of promise with debut album Souverain, reviewed here by Paul Castles and released via Godz ov War Productions on 30 May 2017
Following a commanding scene-setting intro that skillfully builds the decrepit walls of impending doom and destruction, Atrexial get down to the serious business with the bloodcurdling ‘The Hideous Veil of Innocence’. Razor wire guitars penetrate the ether accompanied by cursed black metal vocals that leave you in no doubt that you’re dancing with the devil.
Initially the brainchild of Naga S. Maelström, Atrexial now function as a three-piece following the recruitment to the ranks of Louen on vocals and Labelua (ex-Abrahel) on drums. Louen has fronted black metal crew Nyctophobia for over a decade and is also engaged in a solo doom venture. Labelua also figures with Apostles of Perversion while Naga himself jiggles diary space with his tech metal band Human Carnage and black metal outfit Cauldron who have been going for over 20 years.
While all busy then away from Atrexial, it’s also clear within the first few minutes of Souverain that the Barcelona trio are putting everything they’ve got into this promising new enterprise. ‘Under the Scourge of Lamashtu’ has a hook to catch a pretty tasty salmon and once reeled in the Catalan crushers carve things up with admirable precision.
The tempo here is far from frantic. It’s measured, thoughtful and precise but within the charcoal black sound there is dexterity alongside the destructive aural waves. When the vocals roar loudest it’s like some kind of biblical giant bellowing at the little people. ‘Catharsis Through Torment’ notches up the fire and brimstone with riff attacks faster and sharper and the whole track sounds like a descent into the bowels of a particularly febrile and putrid pit. ‘Unmerciful Imperial Majesty’ has a great rumbling chug stabilizing the song’s core as all around it things start to get swallowed up by blasphemous barbs and Luciferian-laden grooves.
Atrexial only exist in a world of the dispossessed and the downtrodden. In this world the only emotions are those of negativity and narcissism and this reveals itself in the form of furious atmospheric soundscapes that rip and tear at your senses through a shuddering screen of atmospheric aggression.
Labelua’s belligerent blastbeats reign like fury on ‘Illuminatur’ but while Atrexial’s energy is channeled down that well-worn black metal path the sound remains visceral and violent rather than tired and tepid. ‘The Ominous Silence’ stirs itself through intricately worked sonic shapes that only start to take on that razored edge when Naga’s hoarse vocals are brought to the table. Some spoken words, in English, add a perfunctory punctuation point after which the riffs again roll assuredly back into view with a scorched guitar solo whipped into the frenzy for good measure.
Some tranquility and respite is briefly forthcoming with the piano instrumental ‘Ascension’ although the accompanying choral and monastic chants that echo in the distance bring an edge of unease even to this brief interlude. Any calm that rests beneath the waters is detonated by ‘Shadows of the Nephilim Throne’ which launches with an imposing intro, bolstered by the blastbeat assault, and then veers off into a toxic cocktail of blistering bites. The album’s title track carries a certain grandeur about it, with a rousing sound big enough to fill an amphitheater, before Atrexial slowly wind things down on closer ‘Eternal’.
Souverian is a formidable debut release and Atrexial’s live show will soon be put to the test for the first time with a few dates lined up in Spain, including an appearance at the two-day Bilbao Death Fest in October. All being well, hopefully Atrexial’s touring legs will take them further afield in the not too distant future.
- The Hideous Veil of Innocence
- Under the Scourge of Lamashtu
- Catharsis Through Torment
- Unmerciful Imperial Majesty
- The Ominous Silence
- Shadows of the Nephilim Throne