The mists roll in. This is a dark and grainy affair. I detect an element of Uneven Structure in this heavy atmosphere. It’s pungent. From “Neophyte” we progress to “Centralis” – mystical titles and mysterious songs, except there’s no mistaking the power and the authority. Atlases drag us through a murky world. It’s actually quite a pleasant experience. There is structure and even melody. The post metal ring adds a little mystique, and there’s a cleverly imposed backing vocal line to add further mystery. An interesting and impressive feature of “Centralis” is that Atlases take time to wallow in the melancholic gloom, a rare quality for a debut album. Patience pays, as I found myself getting sucked into this world. “Heathen Colors” again has that post metal ring, but the background instrumentals are suggestive and add the colour. Haunting vocals give way to harshness. Somewhere in this blackened doom there is light as Atlases develop this world. Explosions are subtle. Sounds blend in a sophisticated way. Where at first I found myself likening this to Uneven Structure, I could picture the bleak but atmosphere-laden lands of Fen. “Halcyon” takes us in a gloomier direction still. There is a cosmic element here, but the gloom is now more funereal. For a few minutes we stand still in a void with electronic rumblings. This is temporary respite as we return to harsh scenes. In fact “Monolithe” starts with an unprecedented ferocity before evolving in subtler tones, marked by the statement making guitar ring and striking drumming. “Monolithe” captures the special mix of moods that I heard throughout this album. “Seasons Aligned” blends majesty once more with power without being in any way ostentatious. This is ethereal doom in its finest form. Following on is the menacing “Earth into Ocean”. After an already imposing build up, a break leads us into a fury of post metal and recognisably Cult of Luna territory. The waves are harsh and uncompromising. It is breath-taking, and I imagine it could be even more so in the confined space of a live venue. Suddenly it stops, and the haunting, progressive style vocals lead us into a dark and delicate atmospheric piece. The tones are lush and expansive. The mood has turned to sadness. “Moon Pillar” is in fact a piece of melancholic beauty, and provides a worthy and powerful end to this thoroughly accomplished and absorbing album.
“Haar” is a most impressive debut album. Atlases richly capture a world in an atmospheric and uplifting way that brings light out of dark.
(9/10 Andrew Doherty)