Arx Atrata – The Path Untravelled (Self Release)
Review by Milos Sebalj
The autumn is here, so it is about time to whip up some solemn tunes to commemorate the fall of nature before the forces of death. And this album has fallen into my lap just at the right time. It was a slow and heavy fall, as a leaf falls from a tree, tumbling all the way down, carried by the winds of the end complete. Now, go look out the window, as I’m done with the weather report.
Arx Atrata is a solo project of one Ben Sizer from England and it is nowhere near your typical, pointless raw Black Metal one-man band. This man is obviously well trained and skilled composer and this, his third, album is the proof.
While heavily leaning against the roots of second wave Black Metal, Arx Atrata implements the atmosphere which is so archetypal for bands coming from the United Kingdom. One can immediately bring forth associations with Primordial or Winterfylleth. There are bands outside of these islands that try to imitate this ‘foggy’ sound, but it remains something only the selected few can manage. And the Albion does it best. Now, Arx Atrata is certainly more on the Black Metal side than Primordial, and more atmospheric than their mentioned country mates. Ben embraces both sides in his creativity and combines them to astonishing results. Arranged to perfection, it is clear he put a lot of thought into this output. The way Arx Atrata guides the listener on “The Path Untravelled” seems easy flowing and natural.
The razor sharp riffing is laid as a foundation and on top of it is a multitude of layers, melodic guitar leads, melancholic keyboards and a minimal piano effort to enrich the already rich song structure. Also present are the occasional acoustic parts which usually serve to emphasize the emotion carried through the tracks. Rhythm section is present to an extent, but this sort of music isn’t quite well known for its playfulness, so the drums are carrying the backbone of the album without much further impact on the arrangements. Bass guitar has its moments but still remains in the background, due to the extensive list of things going on at any given time. Vocals might be construed as the weakest link here. These screams need to be stronger, as they come pretty close to weeping at times and somewhat lessen the feeling of “The Path Untravelled”. Maybe even some clean vocal parts wouldn’t hurt from time to time. Or is it just my infatuation with Primordial speaking?
Beautiful, painted cover art needs to be mentioned as it fulfills the image of this, very strong outing by Arx Atrata. The riches of this project apparently lay in details. There are so many that I cannot grasp the entirety without this review going for the length of an essay. What I can say is that this album takes you on a journey. A journey not without its hardships or obstacles, but one that absolutely captures your soul and fills it with somber beauty. “The Path Untravelled” lives up to the promises of the poetic promo sheet and must be enjoyed by every fan of the mentioned bands or simply Metal music with a knack for feelings other than anger and hatred.