arxatrataDebut album Oblivion seemingly came from out of nowhere at the beginning of 2014 and pretty much blew me away. Looking back at the review I had little information to go on at the time as the band were not revealing much at all wanting “the music to do the talking.” Talk it did and fast forward a few years and it is an album that continued doing so and been getting the occasional frosty listen and still enamouring me with its cold, atmospheric, blackened wintery delights. During the absence work has steadily progressed on follow up album ‘Spiritus In Terra’ and with it comes more information about Arx Atrata themselves. Not a full group as expected but it appears that this is the work of an individual from the Nottingham area called Ben Sizer, also of Twilight’s Embrace. He certainly made me feel like the debut was the work of a full band so the music definitely did the job. Still seemingly going it alone on the follow up, the good news is that there is talk about expanding to a full line-up to play the material in the live environment; count me down as very eager to see this achieved.

Seven epic and thoroughly majestic tracks are included this time around taking up nearly an hour’s playing time. Keyboards open with a sparkling autumnal feel as ‘Legacy’ swirls in with a fine sense of melody and some gravid rasping vocals. You find yourself instantly entranced here as the track evolves with a touch of pagan bravado behind the faster parts and a mesmerising flow to the intricate musicianship. There’s a somewhat gloomy acoustic part before the blood-thirsty vocals and fast tremolo flurry drives in and speeds away. The song-writing here cannot be faulted and there’s plenty going on here on just the first number. I absolutely love the second track Hiraeth, it has that feel about it I found on favourite Dimmu Borgir number Mourning Place due to the gorgeous keyboard sound transporting off to a wonderland of mystery and magic; it’s a bit like walking through a wardrobe and finding yourself in Narnia. These somewhat symphonic overtones make it almost unimaginable that it is the work of one person. It suitably goes for the throat too and is as vicious and dangerous as it is spellbinding. Nottingham maybe not deepest darkest Norway but it has a mighty and famous forest no doubt explored at length by the composer. ‘Sherwood’ takes up this journey and provides musical accompaniment to the striking album artwork, transporting into a world of cold, dark nature but one full of wonderment and imagination. Drums roll, guitars tremble and the vocals are craggy and weathered, while an acoustic part literally chills you to the very bone. There’s a sense of history to it all but don’t worry not a hint of any romantic Robin Hood Hollywood bullshit to be found.

‘Impermanence’ is a fast and furious heathen romp, suggesting the chase is well and truly on as it dashes off and tears away. It’s a real blaster before a more nostalgic feel is unveiled via the album’s title track and it digs in with a steadfast grit and determination about it. There’s some melancholic and doomy riffs about this one that remind a bit of both Katatonia and My Dying Bride but the blackness at its heart is formidable. Marching on with a leaden stomp about it ‘The Traveller’ continues to stride away along the musical canvas. There’s plenty of drama along the way including massive bombasts and cleaving fury that sound like a full army is engaging on the battlefield; the bloodshed is absolutely without mercy. The last track sees arrival at ‘The Barrow’ and there’s a sense of victory in getting there from the impression of the jubilant vocals and more upbeat feel of the music

Overall this is a fantastically rich and mature album from someone who has taken a lot of thought, skill and time to construct it perfectly. There’s a sense of a story running through it and the whole effect transfixes the listener giving a wonderful overall experience. Every bit as good as the Coldworld album of a couple of months ago Arx Atrata have again proven to be the best thing you may not have heard within the atmospheric black world realm and if that is the case you should rectify this immediately.

(8.5/10 Pete Woods)