Band: Atma Weapon Album: The Fields Where Nothing Grows Genre: Progressive metal Date of release: 23/11/15 Location: North Carolina Reviewer: Benjamin Muir For Fans Of: Karnivool, Between the Buried and Me, Opeth
1. Winding Roots (2:05) 2. Everything You Won’t (7:04) 3. Clear Blue Skies (5:54) 4. Autumn Leaves (6:45) 5. The Wasteland (5:52) 6. Every Ship (8:04) 7. Fields of Sorrow (5:31) 8. The Silent and Still (4:02) 9. The Fields Where Nothing Grows (6:24)
I review mostly hardcore with the odd exception based on what needs a reviewer for IPHYB. Atma Weapon is most certainly not hardcore, but they’re not bad either. I have sometimes discussed that a lot of my musical discovery as a kid came in the form of 2000’s metalcore bands in my earlier teens before I got more into mathcore, mosh, and beatdown as I got older. In retrospect, a lot of the Metalcore bands I enjoyed as a kid are fairly hard to listen to now next to recordings with contemporary production. I do still however, harbour a warm nostalgia for melodic death metal leads and gratuitous palm muting once in a while.
Atma Weapon could best be described as progressive metal band if we have to label it strictly, but for a more accurate description they’re a kind of cross between Karnivool and 00’s Metalcore with occasionally more specific melodeath, prog-death and prog-metal influences, (most notably Opeth) admittedly with much more polish than the vast majority of older bands in any of the genres that were apparent influences.
I came across Atma Weapon in a piece of writing I was doing for another publication regarding a member of the band who happens to own the world’s largest Boss Pedal collection. When I went to a single from the band before the interview, I was expecting something shoegazey or Pink Floydish but instead I was pleasantly surprised but a balance of diverse influences, catchy songwriting, great instrumentation, and crisp production. While I only listened once before the interview, I made a note to look into it later because I didn’t mind it at all. As Cameron and I talked over Skype about his unfathomable dedication to collecting stompboxes, we came to discuss some common influences from our younger years and generally had a good yarn. He encouraged me to check out the rest of his band’s material; I told him I would listen to the album in full review it when I got the chance. It’s been a few months since then and I have had the band’s most recent release on my iTunes shuffle for a while now, and gave it one or two listens as a full album to review it decisively. I quite enjoyed it on a passing listen, and found that I continued to over time. It’s different to a lot of what I listen to, but also pleasantly nostalgic and familiar all at once.
I didn’t have the best time gleaning a concept from the album by this method of listening, so I’m more or less reviewing this album from an auditory point of view. I am assuming there is a concept due to the band’s progressive nature. That being said, this is a fantastic album from an instrumental point of view, especially as a guitar record.
‘Winding Roots’ and ‘Everything You Won’t’ are slyly technical but understated tracks, slowly building tension before the hooky single track, ‘Clear Blue Skies’ plays out in a manner similar to the more melodic end of Howard Jones-era Killswitch Engage. The fourth then rolls back into a Sound Awake-era Karnivool-style jam entitled ‘Autumn Leaves’ before the fifth track, ‘The Wasteland’ stands out as an absolute guitar masterclass. Some fantastic playing being showcased here, and in spite of the fact that there are no pointy 7-strings in sight, I can still see the guitar nerds and shred kids getting into this even if it’s not strictly-speaking a shred record. ‘Every Ship’ begins as the most upbeat track on the record and finishes as he heaviest. I must admit though, the major section of the composition was probably my least favourite on the album. ‘Fields of Sorrows’ is another anthemic, hooky metalcore-tinged track. ‘The Silent and Still’ presents as a relatively quiet track in contrast; it’s a ballad with some very clever arpeggios in it. Finally, the titular track wraps the album up with a little bit of all the dynamic elements of the other tracks on the album.
If I had any criticism to offer, it would be that the dirty vocals could use a bit more breath behind them and the heavy sections could do with being more numerous, as could the more complex instrumentals, especially guitar leads. While the hooks were there in the poppier songs, I think Atma Weapon shines the brightest through their fantastic compositions and instrumentation as a progressive metal band. This is the most apparent in the longer lead breaks, and the more dissonant instrumentals. If their vocalist (who I might add has some pretty impressive clean chops) could bring his a-game to the heavier sections more often, Atma Weapon could stand out even more when there’s already not that much similar to them on the market. There are a multitude of prog-rock bands with a big following amongst the Triple J crowd other than Karnivool – Dead Letter Circus, Cog, and Birds of Tokyo all come to mind; however, what they all distinctly lack (bar the former-most) is crossover appeal with Australia’s heavy music audience. Atma Weapon have the potential to be absolutely huge in Australia because they would be able to carve a niche amongst both the tradie-prog and Metalcore audiences which collectively makes up quite a large potential fanbase. I subscribe heavily to neither but I still thoroughly enjoyed this record. If you enjoy any of the acts I alluded to while writing this piece, you should probably give this a listen.