I like the band name, it just rolls off the tongue and kind of types from the keyboard in the same fashion. As for further information there is not a fantastic amount more I can tell you as the letter accompanying the disc points out that Arx Atrata “prefer to let [their] music do the talking.” Talk it did, from the very first spin and as it was right on the last post before Xmas that it turned up I had no choice but to keep this one myself for review rather than send it to another writer (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). Repeated plays have further enamoured me considerably to the cold and icy blackened soundscapes on this 5 track 50 minute album and it has really helped a period of man flu enforced solitude take my mind off things as I have completely lost myself in the depths of the music. Who exactly is behind it I am not sure, all music is contributed to Arx Atrata so it could well be just a one person outfit, though I suspect not. Oblivion came from and was recorded in Nottingham so we have a new and very serious UK black metal act here, time to dip into the actual music itself.
Obviously you have already worked out that songs are long and involving and we start with the absolutely perfect sound of ‘Winter’ as lone maudlin tones from keyboards drench things in an atmosphere of abandonment and the harsh windy chill breathes out an air that turns everything it touches to ice. We build into a layered, slowly-flowing sound that is rich and beguiling, ponderous as it takes form, then vast as guitars and battering drums join in. Vocals are harsh and throaty and gurgle away, slightly lower in the mix than the instrumentation, somewhat cold and alien and there is no chance of deciphering the lyrics. For some reason I keep thinking of Summoning as far as the vocals are concerned, there’s even some backing clean choral parts. Musically there is plenty that I could cite but originally presented by Arx Atrata as we take in everything from earlier Drudkh, through to Germ, the ambient touch of Frozen Ocean and even our own Fen. It’s powerful and easy to lose yourself as songs evolve, in no hurry to draw you in but doing so without you even having at first realised. As the first track builds and peaks it ends in a spine shivering atmospheric keyboard line bringing to mind the likes of Trist and Luna Aurora, the perfect final sprinkling of snow on the thick coat of Winter’s grip. ‘The Hour’ builds on the drama and the vocals snarl in more hungrily, with the instrumentation a lot more strident. Guitars almost flamenco as they enthuse the track with a great sense of majesty and melody and it quickly carries you off as the track soars, gleams and glistens.
This does feel as though it is taking you on a vast snowbound journey, the next stage of which sees us treading ‘Through Dying Lands’ Despite the fact it appears this was recorded over some time 2010-2013 it feels like it is has one very constant flow to it. Plenty again to focus on, central seems to be the jagged guitar strum which really shimmers and shines through here along with the gargling vocals and passages of sorrowful keyboard. It has my imagination working overtime, why have the lands died, is it some sort of post-apocalyptic nuclear winter ala The Road we are stumbling along? The full force hits with the fourth movement ‘The Broken Man’ where everything seems to meld together and we hit a fast flurrying sound comparable with the mighty barrage of the likes of Wodensthrone and Winterfylleth. You can certainly bang heads and slam fists along to this and naturally the question and hope here is that we will see Arx Atrata emerge as a fully fleshed live band in the future. It is left to ‘Forsaken’ to somewhat gloomily conclude this tale and one gets the feeling it is one where no redemption is to be found at the end but it has certainly been a page turner of a trip and one that I hope will see many new chapters unfold in the future.
For a debut album by an unsigned band this has come close as dammit to blowing me away. A hugely rich work with great sense of atmosphere Oblivion contains pretty much everything I like about black metal within its realm. Someone seriously needs to think about signing this lot, I could see them fitting in excellently on a label such as Prophecy, Candlelight or Code666. Check them out at the following links and hear for yourself!
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)