Atavist – III: Absolution

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Hot on the heels of Winterfylleth’s latest opus, we encounter guitarist Chris Naughton once more in an outfit that had lain dormant for the past twelve years: Atavist.
Back in the early nineties, this quartet was one of the heaviest and slowest bands ever to come out of Manchester. Portishead’s Geoff Barrow was so impressed by their massive, crushing take on music that he even signed them on his own label, Invada, for their self-titled debut and the follow up ‘II: Ruined’.

Never a bunch to shy away from out there experiments, they made several collaborations with the likeminded Canadian drone duo that is Nadja during those years. After a final split release in 2008, however, Atavist called it a day with Haughton concentrating more on his razor sharp epic tales of Albion in Winterfylleth.
This year, however, Atavist sees the return of most of the original lineup together again, along with a new record deal with Candlelight, the same label as Haughton’s main band. Coinciding with this new lease on life, comes their third full length, not entirely surprisingly monikered ‘III: Absolution’.
It is a collection of four lengthy tracks that prove these four horsemen have lost none of their bulldozer bite.
From the very start, however, ‘Loss’ illustrates that time has not stood still in Manchester either. The opening track is a surprisingly restrained composition that, in accordance with its title, aims for melancholy rather than skullcrushing heaviness. This is brought even more to the fore with the inclusion of none other than Jo Quail, who adds some very moving cello pieces to the misery. Those familiar with Winterfylleth‘s recent releases, might also recognize Bianca Blezard here on violin and viola.
‘Struggle’ struggles across more familiar terrain with Toby Bradshaw’s fathomless bellow and riffs that are drawn out to such an extent that they become a wall of thick, rumbling noise.

‘Self-Realisation’ brings about Haughton’s characteristic tremolo picked blackness. However, where you would expect the song to burst out in a berserker frenzy of clashing swords, the song gets stuck in a bass heavy swamp and is forced to wade ploddingly through the sludge of doom. Every time it tries pick up some momentum, the murky rhythm sucks it back into this inescapable mass of rumbling bass.
‘Absolution’ cautiously flows in on foreboding synths courtesy of another Winterfylleth buddy: Mark Deeds. It brings back the ambient feel from their collaborations with Nadja in a darkly Tangerine Dream kind of way. As the guitars gently join in, it forms in a way the mirror image of ‘Loss’, adding a touch of morose melody usually reserved for the likes of Mournful Congration, making this the most accomplished doom song they have ever written.

Release date: June 19 2020
Label: Candlelight Records

  1. Loss
  2. Struggle
  3. Self-Realisation
  4. Absolution


  • Music9/10
  • Lyrics/Vocals8/10
  • Production/Mix9/10
  • Artwork/Packaging8/10
  • Originality8/10
8.4I never expected Atavist to return with a new album after such a long absence, let alone one that offers some of the finest doom they have ever penned.
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