Calm tones turn to anguish and rage. This is Atra Vetosus from Australia. As the band played on majestically, it was if someone had set fire to the howling vocalist. Nature and paganism came to mind as I listened to the dark expanse of “Oceans of Light, Rainfall of Stars”, the first of the tracks on “Apricity”, the band’s second full album release. “From the depths of my being I exalt the breath of nature” is a phrase I kept reading while getting myself up to date with this band.

“Ever Falling Snow” has the atmosphere you would expect. The instrumentalists pump out pomp as the seemingly helpless individual screams on. It’s a cold, harsh world. Quite apart from the bleak coldness, I liked the melancholic acoustic touches that could be found on the opening track and “Violet”. This mixed up the mood nicely, and although it’s far from happy, it means we’re not spending our whole time battling against the elements. “Apricity” errs towards black metal rather a Forgotten Tomb type depressiveness, but alternates between this and sinking back into gloom. “Where the Lost Spirits Roam” has all this. Without doubt the instrumental work is powerful and purposeful. I am reminded a little of a blacker version of Agalloch. My only gripe at this point was that these vocals are over the top. I think we got the message quite early on that it’s pretty awful out there. Meanwhile the band pumps on mercilessly, occasionally ramping up into storms of musical violence.

In the spirit of juxtaposing track titles, “Fading Life, Winter Winds” starts gloomily with a hint of background symphony before rising epically into the controlled chaos I had become accustomed to. The haunting chorus kicks in but the problem I was having was that nature’s eternity is just that – eternal – and it was like experiencing through the same frosty and hopeless scenario each time. Strange to say, I wasn’t feeling winds going through me as the title might suggest but more of a constant slab of cold. “Amber” reintroduces acoustic gloom before another majestic blast with “Of Ancient Prophecies”. The vocalist howls, suggesting he should go back indoors to escape the cold. A mellow section is inexplicably accompanied by shouting. I think here the instrumental shift could have worked better on its own, but instead we’re back to the usual isolated atmosphere. It has power but there are no twists, which let’s face it nature is more than capable of producing. Words are spoken in that pagan style but it works round the same theme in an incomprehensible way. The constant theme remains for the last track “Pravitatem Cordis Hominis”. Up and down it goes in its melodic black metal way but it doesn’t take us any further than we’ve already been. The guitar rings and the drum beats persistently as the vocalist screams. I thought we were going to be stuck in this groove for the rest of the piece but interestingly the wind whips up and the piano plays darkly, leading us into a sultry combination of majestic melody and momentary screams.

Atro Vetosus certainly know to create a bleak atmosphere, and I take my hat off to them for that. The instrumental delivery of this collection of mostly lengthy slabs could not be faulted in any technical sense, but I found the winter winds did not transport me very far and so I was isolated listening for thematic transformations through the music, which for me weren’t apparent.

(7/10 Andrew Doherty)