Atoma: Skylight

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Atoma: Skylight
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Atoma: Skylight
Gothic Metal, Industrial, Post-Rock
Napalm Records
April 3rd, 2012
Release length: 47:49
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According to the band’s Last.fm account, this is a group of musicians led by Ehsan K., a former member of Slumber, that started out as an organisation that joined in various riots world wide between 2005 to 2008. It was put on hold until April 2009, when Atoma reactivated as a Post-Rock group. Years later, the group has put together enough material for their debut full-length, Skylight, and has been picked up by Napalm Records. But, chances are good this is not quite the experience you are expecting.

Listening to Skylight is like sitting back and allowing the night skies to take you off into some rather radical or magical metaphysical experiences. The sleek audio quality of the album sounds superb and quite unreal. The main allure of the album is the synth and keyboard territory, which is simply dynamic and enriches the musical atmosphere to soothing or epic lengths themselves. There are some guitars, but for the most part end up nicely blended to the aforementioned aspects and industrialized concepts so well that you often mistake one for another. The bass is not quite as obvious in some songs, but again it is present and does make enough of an impact in the mix, as do the vocals which are simply unneccesary on this journey, but vary greatly. “Skylight” finds some gutturals thrown in amid the soft clean singing with a slight distortion that feeds perfectly in the beautiful musical sense. This also makes up what much of the album throws your way. But next to the keyboard performances, its the drums that really stand out. The snares have a slight echo that sometimes make them feel a bit in the distance, while the cymbals are as loud but actually sound closer to the microphone, and the bass kicks have a pretty decent louder thus to them that doesn’t really become overbearing, or throw the sleak production into troubled waters.

There’s a great deal of variety in the music as well, going from the more dramatic and over-the-top heavier aspect with songs like “Atoma,” or a traditional Post-Rock sound like what is found on “Highway.” The first of these really has a strong symphonic style start that feels more like a dramatic opening to a Hollywood movie, coming in quite loud, but to push the rather epic drum-fueled atmosphere before kicking into catchy eighties style synth pop that will have your head bobbing along to the infectious rhythm and the bass kicks that are more akin to a thud this time around. The song continues to grow, sending your mind on a fantastic adventure that easily symbolizes the artwork to the album cover, and gets you ready for what journeys lie ahead of you. “Skylight” follows this up with a really dynamic and heavily synth-driven foundation with clean vocals that act more like harmonized chants, but the real impact is from the building music that grows louder, not in volume, but by how much is going on in the track to really push the sense of an epic quest similar to “AtomA,” though in a completely different tone. From here, much of the music does start to tone down.

“Highway” is on the other end of the spectrum entirely. This one is a lot more soothing, and utilizes a slower pace with a strong synth presence to create a night time journey, as if gazing at the stars and allowing your spirit to escape and float about them. The soothing clean singing really works with the atmosphere of the song to keep you lifted, and as you go through, things slowly build to a thicker sound and stronger environment before the climax, which sadly feels real quick and a little too blunt for such a soul moving offering. This is where Skylight starts to get into some trouble. While the remaining songs aren’t necessarily generic, there often isn’t much that really is impressive either. “Resonance” sounds more like a slower Metal track meant to carry a bit of emotion in the chords, and in that respect it does a good job. The atmosphere is also present once more, but it feels heavily simplified against an equally simple bass line that actually becomes annoying after a short while, yet lasts over a minute at the beginning. The main verses resort to thinner keyboards that carry a hint of beauty to them, but it all feels reminiscent to “Highway” at many points, but a little edgier.

But, the worst ends up being many of the lighter tracks that rely too much on the keyboards to fill the empty music. “Solaris” is one of the weaker tracks because of it. This also uses an audio sample containing narration, and a drum beat that sounds unoriginal, as if from an eighties Hip Hop act with some astral tone added in the background. Unfortunately, this leads to a rather bland track overall. “Rainmen” is about the same as far as your enjoyment will go, though the longer track doesn’t ever feel like it’s overstaying its welcome with the seven minute plus length. The softer, soothing nature finds a stronger guitar presence, which is the driving point of the following “Saturn and I” among some crackling crystal-like synth effects there, but overall still retains some generic material that seems to head more into general Gothic Rock territory a la Beseech, and forsakes a good deal of atmosphere. But, this one isn’t half bad actually. While it’s a rough start, the ending does finish on a higher note when it all grows into a stronger experience with beautiful keyboards, larger environment, and a glistening effect on some single notes of the keyboard that come off more like stars blinking in the night skies.

Skylight is a nice grab bag of Post Rock and Post Metal ideas, but not all of them wind up working out. There’s a solid selection of rich, atmospheric offerings here to keep any listener attentive, such as “AtomA,” “Skylight,” and even “Rainmen” when you get deeper into it. However, once you reach “Resonance,” the material does seem to start going downhill, and can become bland, or even just generic. Either way, the experience that Atoma brings to the table on this album is one that shouldn’t be missed by any means. The rich details found in some songs really can lift the listener’s spirit away for a beautiful or epic journey that is hard to come by on music releases today. And, with such a superb audio quality, it really just makes this feel more natural and real. Skylight is definitely worth checking out, or even at least sampling if you’re cautious due to the errors mentioned in this review. But, one listen to this album will show you that Atoma is definitely a band that plans to stick around, and has the skills to really make a name for themselves in the post- market.

01. Atoma – 4:31
02. Skylight – 5:19
03. Hole in the sky – 3:51
04. Highway – 4:24
05. Bermuda Riveira – 5:02
06. Resonance – 5:54
07. Solaris – 3:35
08. Rainmen – 7:07
09. Saturn and I – 3:26
10. Cloud Nine – 4:39
Overall Score: 7/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records.