East German psychedelic-doom five piece Motorowl are back once again with the follow up to their 2016 debut ‘Om Generator’. Much like their previous album, “Atlas” continues the use of psychedelic rock, 70’s style rock, space rock and elements of doom and stoner, and much like their previous release, ‘Atlas’ has received plenty of praise across the board from a number of institutions. Last time round, my fellow writer Andrew, gave the band’s debut a respectable 6 out of 10, highlighting some concerns regarding coherency and seeming to go off on parallels which don’t quite follow the progressions. Let’s see if things are a bit easier to navigate this time out.
It seems more straight forward from the get go as “Infinite Logbook” has that high octane desert/space rock kick to it. With plenty of pace in the distorted sections, a sweet sounding bassline, great clean guitar layering in the verses and some ambitious organ and synth overlays, it sounds a lot like a cross between Deep Purple and Sons Of Alpha Centauri. It’s got some great melodic structuring and the lead work is spot on when it comes under the spotlight. The vocals are a bit light, certainly having a melodic side to them but they lack a little weight, but with the way the track sounds, it fits well enough. Follow-up track, “The Man Who Rules The World” is a little more atmospheric, drawing on the 70’s rock and prog vibes to add more definition to the sound. The organ lines add plenty to the music, at times overpowering the other instruments, but dictating the progression of the track, be it with moments which come across in a dramatic fashion or more mysterious and exotic sounding. Again, the intricate layering and spot on compositional work and structuring is there, but it’s just a slightly slower take on the opening track when you think about it.
After this, things seem to hit a kind of plateaux. The next three tracks all seem to just ‘be there’ in terms of the sound and impact. With the first two tracks showing signs of why this band was praised by many last time round, these three tracks seem to just pad things out, departing from the more classic rock inspired sections and seemingly drifting more to post-rock territory. There are some moments where you could compare this run of tracks to that of French band Klone; there are some interesting atmospheric dynamics at play and almost hypnotic rhythmic components which stand out well, but the over-reliance on the organ to provide the atmospheric manipulations seems to overpower a lot of the music beneath it in this sequence of songs. Add in the (now) very repetitive vocal delivery which seems to lack a spark to make it really stand out and it’s easy to see where Motorowl may have been lacking last time round.
The last two tracks, “Cargo” and “Norma Jean” do seem to get a bit of life in them, picking things up a little once more, but despite some creative and impressive atmospheric sequences and good shifts from clean to heavier distortion based passages, “Cargo” still has a little too much post-rock influence in there to recapture some of the momentum from earlier in the release. “Norma Jean” on the other hand does bring things back to the stoner/doom side of the spectrum and it seems to blend the best moments of the first two tracks with some of the more intriguing sonic elements from the lacklustre trio of tracks in the middle of the release, creating a fairly good synopsis of the album with its well-thought out arrangements and interplay between the organ/synth and the rest of the band.
In all, “Atlas” to me seems to suffer from the same issues its predecessor did. There are some fantastic instrumental sections of the release, and some pretty bland sections. There are elements where the direction of the track seems to work, then it suddenly decides to take the scenic route and get lost whilst doing so. It has some excellent composition ideas on there, but the delivery of said ideas comes across as lacklustre at times, which ties in with the points mentioned before. It might be an album which will grow on you, but a decent start and end don’t do much to hide the lack of content in the middle.