The metalcore game in Finland is surprisingly strong and maybe often a bit overlooked. There are quite a couple of bands that are starting to get noticed, actively turning heads and Atlas is most definitely one of them. This quintet from the Tampere region have been working hard on creating their signature sound they baptized as “Northcore”. While their earlier debut EP and full-length ‘PRIMITIVE‘ were highly interesting releases, it seems that with their latest release ‘UKKO‘ they’re about to start the next big chapter of their story.
While they were always influenced by the Finnish melancholy and coldness that the winter brings with it, that influence is pushed even more forward on this record. They took inspiration from Finnish folk music and poetry, molding their already quite unique sound into something truly epic and captivating. Opening track ‘TALVI’ slowly draws you in with gorgeous harmonized clean vocals singing in Finnish, giving it that almost magical quality. With just those vocals and some atmospheric acoustic guitars, it’s the perfect melancholic and mesmerizing intro to what is to come. Slowly fading away, it goes into the first proper track ‘SYNTI’, which gives us a first taste of chugging metalcore riffs before going back into a more laid back sound with clean vocals. A trick that happens throughout the song, where the more melancholic and minimalist musical background and clean vocals alternates with metalcore heaviness that slaps you in the face and at times really nasty harsh vocals. It gives for a very dynamic first track that straight blows you away early on in this album. And I didn’t even mention yet the buildup to the breakdown on this track that absolutely rips!
And that killer heaviness gets continued with ‘TAIVAANRANTA‘, a track that blows you away with a crushing mid-tempo riff that transitions into some really groovy metalcore sensibilities to then lull you into a sense of safety with some pure Finnish melancholy with a clean section again. It’s a trend that you can find throughout the album: chugging metalcore heaviness and at times absolute brutal soundscapes alternating with more calm sections that drip of melancholy and desperation and touches of folky tunes. It’s been a while since I’ve last came across a metalcore release as dynamic, engaging and absolutely epic as this one, to be honest. The way they mix in that melancholic tone throughout everything they create, is mesmerizing and really elevates them to unseen heights. The rest of the album very much continues that same sensibility where pounding metalcore intermingles with highly emotional and melancholic parts with one of my personal favorites under the form of ‘UKKO‘. With the exception of ‘HENKI‘, being an interlude similar to the intro, and ‘LEHTO‘, a completely acoustic and clean vocals affair.
This really has become a monumental release for Atlas. They elevated metalcore into a realm that easily surpasses the stereotypes of the genre by infusing all that melancholy, personality and masterful songwriting. There was not a moment that didn’t get my attention as much as the rest and when you think you have their formula down, they surprise you with an exceptionally heavy or even bleak part (thinking of ‘VERI‘ where they at times almost sound like the “winter metal” legends of Wolfheart) or contemplative and soul-crushing piece of music. The use of both English and Finnish adds even more magic to it all. This was simply one of my favorite albums of the year 2021 and despite already expecting big things of them, they completely blew me away. If they continue to write this kind of music, they’ll easily become one of the acts to watch rise to the top effortless.