Tech Death Thursday: ATRÆ BILIS
Catching up on one of the best EP’s of 2020.
ATRÆ BILIS is one of those bands that I feel wholly unqualified to write about. Despite playing a type of music that justifies their name’s all-caps stylization (it’s illegal not to type it that way; it’s off to the gulag if you don’t), the spiritual and psychedelic nature of the lyrics goes straight over my head and makes me feel like I’m missing out on some deeper connection to the music. That’s not to say I dislike it, however; it’s not often that brutal death metal makes me feel dumb, but it’s almost always the mark of a good album when it does.
This of course holds true for Divinihility, which, for all its gurgling vocals and chugging guitars, feels like a meticulously crafted piece of music. The album is about dying and being reborn as a maggot inhabiting the corpse our narrator left behind, and the songs are suitably heavy and unsettling for its gruesome concept. It stays on the slower side of BDM for the most part, primarily built upon low-tuned chunky tremolo picking and sludgy dissonant chords. It drowns you in its murky atmosphere rather than overwhelming you by sheer number of notes played; I appreciate either approach, but the former tends to stick a little better in the long run in my experience.
In the case of ATRÆ BILIS, that ability to stick is aided by how much musical ground this EP covers. Around its aforementioned core structure are a wealth of different themes: opener “Gnode” has some of the grooviest Demilich-style riffing this side of Replicant, where “Ectopian” recalls the clashing rhythm of “Summoning Redemption” with its galloping guitar riff over triplet kicks and moving to a somber, airy outro. Elements of Disentomb and Artificial Brain find a home alongside chanting and droning melodies in surprising cohesion. It sounds like a lot, and it is, but it never turns into a riff salad; each song individually focuses on only a couple ideas, giving each of them their own distinct identity and keeps them from getting messy.
Divinihility sounds great from a production standpoint, too. It’s a very clean-sounding album in spite of its viscous, dirty riffing, and it works in the band’s favor. The drums pack plenty of punch and don’t sound overly processed, and the guitar and vocals are rich and full while still allowing for the music to breath. That last point is particularly important; there are a lot of small, subtle production touches that would get squashed under tighter engineering, little things like background pick scrapes and cymbal flourishes. Unfortunately, the lowest end of the bass tends to get drowned out by the guitars (it could have maybe used a little less fuzz), but it sounds great when its higher notes punch through.
I’m sure this is all stuff most of you already know; Divinihility has been out since mid-August, and I’m far from the first person to write about it. It’s been on my mind since getting the promo earlier in the summer, though, and I feel like it’s a testament to its quality that it has stuck with me for this long. If you haven’t gotten around to listening to it yet for whatever reason, I assure you it’s worth your time. Even if you normally prefer your death metal of a non-brutal, non-progressive nature, there’s enough sweet meat-and-potatoes stuff going on here that I don’t think you’ll find it too heady. Whatever they did, ATRÆ BILIS found a winning formula, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where they go next.
Divinihility is out now on Transcending Obscurity. That’s all for now, so until next time,