Atoma - Skylight (2012)
© Napalm Records
"Many will know Atoma from the dissolve of their previous band, Slumber. Slumber was a melodic death/doom metal band that had a very strong, devoted following. The most remarkable thing about the fact they amassed such a following is the fact they only ever brought out one record, aside from a couple of demos. Yes, just that one record was enough to get people drooling for more - but it never came. Not in the form of Slumber, or metal, anyway. The guys from Sweden are back in an entirely new coat of paint, and definitely an interesting one. Where comparisons to metal bands (and of course Slumber) are inevitable, I think that is perhaps a disservice to the band. Glimpses of metal are definitely in the mix here, without a shadow of a doubt - but it's far from the focus. I wouldn't call this metal at all aside from a couple of growls in a track or two, so it's best to come at this from a different perspective. What we have here is an electronic rock album in essence but with a different focus, a focus on both the atmospherics and the intensity. Think God is an Astronaut but without the overlaying spacey aesthetic and with more of an ear for the intense and chaotic song structures and climaxes. But the big difference, and the best difference to be sure, is the fact that Atoma don't rely on any one thing - not one sound, not one structure.
Every track here has stark differences from the last one, making it a much more interesting experience than a God is an Astronaut album. There are some tracks that sound like a track that they would do, and there are some tracks that sound like they picked up where Slumber left off (Skylight). But it isn't just a display of tracks between those two aesthetics; there are some tracks that take from artists like Aphex Twin (Saturn & I) and even shoegaze bands like Slowdive (Rainmen). The amount of influences here, whether intentional or not, makes this an album that any music fan can find something to latch on to, and let the rest of the album slowly envelope them. It takes all of the influences listed previously and somehow links them together in this dense yet airy array of electronics, orchestration and engaging rock instrumentation that just about anyone can find something in.
The pacing is just right, too. The way the album flows is nigh on perfect, aside from the first track, starting you off on familiar territory for most listeners and easing you into the more obscure tracks with the least metal-faced ideas. The album does a remarkable job of being memorable too, despite being incredibly dense. The way the band have balanced the dense sound with the airy atmospheres is almost astounding, and where some tracks occasionally sound a little weighed down by the sheer amount of things going on, this is more than understandable for a debut and a display of ideas for a band that hopefully has a lot more albums to come. At the face of it, you may think the album's most strong assets are the catchy soaring clean hooks that repeat themselves through the tracks (try not to sing 'Hole in the Sky', for example) but there's just so much more going on that warrants repeated listens and re-visits, the denseness facilitates the ability to hear stuff you never heard before. Be it a ringing electronic melody or a guitar line buried behind the orchestration or warm, floating synth lines. The basslines do a fantastic job of standing out too, which is great to hear on a record like this that many would think could just get away with playing the main note of the composition as it flows along.
The atmospheres are endearing and the performances are just about flawless. The album never focuses on one idea at once, and perhaps there's too many sometimes and the album becomes a bit crowded - but in some ways it makes a lot of sense. For wearing listeners into a sound, allowing them to focus on the ideas that appeal to them most is a very good way to please a lot of people and not compromise the integrity and effectiveness of the record. There is a lot of emotion in these tracks too, tracks like 'Highway' and 'Rainmen' truly shining through with moments that have the potential to make your spine tingle and make you feel like you're floating away. Skylight is a unique and intricate album full of a variety of great soundscapes and ideas that really is recommendable to just about anyone for its versatility and balance. It's memorable enough for casual listeners to enjoy and intricate and dense enough for hardcore listeners to find something to appreciate, and that is a very difficult line to tread that Atoma seems to breeze right over. To see these ideas more streamlined and refined would make Atoma a very, very strong force - not that it already isn't. Listen to it and you'll see why.