Friday, December 4, 2020
Atma Weapon - Through Seas of Gray
Continuing with the Final Fantasy theme, we switch from Ultima Weapon (based on the FFX iteration: aka the shitty one) to Atma Weapon (based (at least by the translation) from the FFVI version: aka the best one), and I find it funny that the band named after the chump you can one-shot without much fuss is mega heavy slamming brutal death metal, while the band named after the super intimidating "pure strength given form" is wimpy prog metal. But hey, them's the shakes and I doubt either band gives as much of a shit about FF lore as I do. Atma Weapon sure as shit don't since I'm fairly sure none of their songs are actually based on the games, rendering this stupid theme-week even more pointless than it already was.
I gave all three releases from the North Carolina-based quartet a listen, and while I think their debut, Dark Tower is unquestionably the "best" one in the sense that it has the most depth and complexity to it, I found myself actually gravitating towards their 2018 EP, Through Seas of Gray. Dark Tower is very winding and intricate, with excellent melodic complexity taking the listener on an epic journey, but at the end of the day it felt like very paint-by-numbers prog metal and I just couldn't bring myself to care. Through Seas of Gray on the other hand, is drop-dead simple and barely metal, but I find it much more engaging and more interesting to talk about. These are five tracks that are more or less just standard rock with a few metalisms thrown in like a chugging riff in "Last Days of Hope" or a nice guitar solo that introduces "Fair Weather", but these streamlined songs let the frankly stellar vocals shine. Mick Armstrong's voice is very much suited to this aggressive rock style, and he complements this style much more than the Dream Theater-y debut. He has this rattly inflection that I fucking adore and wish more vocalists had. I've never really been able to describe it beyond "rattly", but it's that style you can find in bands as disparate as Iron Savior, Clutch, and Off With Their Heads, and I can't get enough of it.
The overall mood is very dark and morose, and when overtly melodic metal bands aim for this I tend to get bored pretty quickly, but keeping the metal quotient fairly low here works to the EP's advantage. Something like the title track has a chorus that is just straight up Nickelback, (I swear to god it's nearly identical to "Someday" or "If Today was Your Last Day") which will turn most people off with good reason, but here I think it works as a very relatable hook that grounds the rest of the song. This is very heavily emotional sadguy stuff, but I dunno, it works for me in a way that most alternative rock simply doesn't. Maybe it's the fact that they used to be a metal band, maybe it's me being an insufferable FF nerd being nice to a band with a cool name, maybe it's just the fact that this style is something of a blind spot for me and I'm actually more of a fan than I realize, hell maybe tons of prog metal actually sounds like this and I've just never noticed because I'm usually drenched in extremity, but whatever the reason I can't bring myself to say this sucks despite how simple and radio-friendly it is. This sort of emotional verse-chorus rock with big fuckin' chords and simple patterns likely isn't for the type of people who will inevitably read this review, but I think it works.