Atramentus - Stygian
Funeral Doom
3 songs (44'40")
Release year: 2020
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

Funeral doom is the genre I like and respect very much because time and time again listening to the albums by early Yearning or Swallow the Sun, Mournful Congregation and Esoteric brought me relaxation and internal release. Funeral doom, by ratcheting its own grief and tension, helps me to drift along and find calmness. Naturally, every time I am about to hear a new band, Quebec based Atramentus in this case, I look for the same experience. Yet listening to From Tumultuous Heavens... (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness) I did not quite get a sense of reliving a very personal, lonesome, introverted tragedy. Instead, From Tumultuous Heavens... (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness), as it was unfolding, drew a picture of this dark, horrible, even scary place. I made a conscious effort to reach out and actually read more about Stygian before proceeding further. Turns out funeral doom can be epic, conceptual even, and that is the story Atramentus presents on the album.

Concept albums, when the story behind them is book worthy, are always a thing to behold, regardless of the genre. If Ayreon’s The Dream Sequencer is Bradbury inspired, then Stygian is dark fantasy, so maybe Moorcock comes to mind. The storyline behind Stygian may not conform to how the physics and science would depict the end of planet Earth, but for a funeral doom album the concept is gripping. Imagine a nameless knight granted immortality through God’s gift, who survived the sun’s death and now wonders about what became of Earth. Unable to die, he roams what became miles thick ice world (with howling winds blowing, although there should be no atmosphere), reminiscing of times past and of his friends and family buried underneath. To tell this story Atramentus embarks on two massive tracks separated by shorter In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream In The Doleful Embrace of The Howling Black Winds), the latter pretty much being ominous rustling and stirring icy gusts, a perfect description of frozen dark ambiance.

When Stygian just begins with From Tumultuous Heavens... (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness) the world still has some signs of life, although it isn’t very pleasant. Opening piano fades and gives rise to dreadful swell of detuned guitars and sweetly sickly synth, the atmosphere of pre-death decay. Above all this, he, the cruel omnipresent beast of a god sits on his throne, letting out miasmical gurgling and screeching sounds, pulling everything down into the abyssal depths. There are some tragic melodic inflections (5’30”), momentary clearings, but dark piano and synth infused decay persists, until descend is complete. Collective voices, from the cathedral of netherworld, the dark figures shown on the immense cover, belong either to cultish church, or to the end of existence, and From Tumultuous Heavens... (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness) ends with just drums and slight melody in behind, closing out all previous survival possibilities.

Perennial Voyage (Across The Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards) is when Stygian’s world ends, but also the place where Atramentus shows off their funeral doom multiple influences. Certainly there is the same decayed guitar, gurgling and roaring of vocals, but there are cosmic, cleaner gothic moments hinting slightly at Draconian or Esoteric. After atmosphere of In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream In The Doleful Embrace of The Howling Black Winds) makes a return appearance there is a clean, noble, mournful guitar line which will splinter your heart in half. At the same time vocals take a blackened higher pitch approach rather than seek bottom, and the whole affair ends with a burst of black metal blastbeat and Cascadian atmospheric black metal altogether. All you can think is that protagonist didn’t succumb to slow fade away, but instead found a way to his personal demise in some sort of protesting fiery event.

Stygian is slow beating monumental towering affair. It will keep your attention and leave a mark.

Killing Songs :
One massive album
Alex quoted 85 / 100
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