New Jersey quartet Evoken have consistently produced genre defining funeral doom throughout their twenty year career and Atra Mors is a grand and huge addition to such a flawless output. How they manage to outdo themselves every time is a mystery that only the band hold the key to and it allows Atra Mors to flow with a stately passion and a monolithic rage against life. Giving each track the space to breathe and intoxicate with its brutal misanthropic edge, Evoken create heady atmospheres of total devastation and suffering by going back to the roots of the scene they were borne from and incorporating a more death metal-esque edge to vocal procedures. Often mentioned in the same breath as legends diSEMBOWELMENT, Thergothon and the majestic Skepticism, Evoken have been a little quiet of late, but this is about to change with the release of their fifth full length (and their first in five years since A Caress of the Void).
Atra Mors begins with the title track; the sound of swirling winds and Don Zaros’ gothic keyboard touches coil around a powerful drum (Vince Verkay) line which kicks with a delicious intent and John Paradiso’s deep and gravelly voice bursts through the crunching guitar and cavernous bass sound. Evoken pull through shades of processional funeral doom and imbue the darkness with those death metal vocals that give them (if it’s at all possible) an ever more morbid hue. Sorrow-filled guitar leads light the shadows with exquisite pain and “Atra Mors” flows with a majestic sadness that envelopes with a cloak of despair.
“Descent into Frantic Dream” features more in the way of a fuller keyboard sound that complements the sinister spoken word style of Paradiso’s vocal work that’s found on this piece. Giving the track a distinctly gloomy edge the gently picked guitar lines work their way into the slowly building momentum of drums and despair and a disparate suffering echoes through the abyssal trenches Evoken leave in their wake. The final minute of the song is a lesson in pure unadulterated misery and the guitar riff soars with a gorgeous and deep sadness that hits so hard it’s a wonder hearts everywhere haven’t broken clean in two.
Evoken bridge tracks with sweetly melancholic instrumental pieces – “A Tenebrous Vision” and “Requies Aeterna” which serve to break up the intensity and allow a little calm before the proverbial storm. Coming after the first instrumental break is the perfection that is “Grim Eloquence.” Beginning in a furious style before completely falling away into a macabre string and somewhat psychedelic keyboard section the track pushes onwards with desperate poignancy and glorious heartrending destruction. Massively heavy in tone and content, “Grim Eloquence” counters booming spoken passages with husky growls and delightfully wailed guitar solos before breaking into a screams of pain and mournful leads that cut so very deeply to the core.
Closing on the string led “Into Aphotic Devastation,” Atra Mors continues the burning path the previous tracks carved out. Wildly emotional and profoundly moving the final track combines Evoken’s ability to punish with huge walls of sound and voice yet break with small touches of melancholy and loss in the delightfully sombre guitar work or the grief-filled keyboard passages. Atra Mors is devastating in its sadness and anguish. Perfect.
9.5 / 10
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