Review: “Somber” by ATER

Taking their name from the Latin adjective for dull black, gloomy, malevolent and obscure, ATER was born from the ashes of Aeons Collide in 2013 by mastermind, multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer and primary songwriter Fernando “Feroz” Bühring. His vision was for an infusion of Black, Death and Progressive grooves citing influences as far apart as Meshuggah and Belphegor and in 2018 debut album “Eternal Gray Spiral” gave an insight into what that might sound like. The studio sessions were completed with drummer Matias Acuña, currently of Follakzoid and guitarist Yeray Santos in their native Santiago Chile before Feroz relocated to Los Angeles, California prior to the albums release. It was there that after a Meshuggah show Feroz met Josh “Sol” Seguin and Stephan “Kalani” Seguin and was able to rebuild the band from the ground up with them playing guitars and drums respectively so that he could focus on handling bass and vocals. Six years on “Somber” was completed, recorded during the great plague years in Mexico City and mastered by Ted Jensen of  Sterling Sound (Mastodon, Gojira, Korn)…

It would be interesting to get the view of Buster Odeholm on the ATER sound, the Vildhjarta drummer and Humanity’s Last Breath guitarist being one of the  pioneers alongside Meshuggah of the Blackened Thall sound that they create. Brutal opening cut “Striges” is very much a savage decent into madness, spiralling in down tuned DJent fired riffs, blast beats and demonic vocals that leave you wondering what you just heard. A call from beyond the grave to the black depths of the void, it’s almost hypnotic but be warned, something wicked this way comes. Crushing your bones into dust “Descending” takes the depravity to the depths of the Marianna trench, where there is no light, turning blood bags from solid to liquid in the process. Nauseating churning palm muted guitars chug destructively with meditative precision, the bludgeoning kit work impressing with creative variation.

Setting the scene with twenty seconds of acoustic guitars and some almost ethereal atmospherics breathes a different energy into album title track “Somber” before the weight and gravity of the black hole the band create returns with savage effect. Powerful polyrhythmic sounds drive things in perpetual forward motion with fleeting eerie melodies between sections of crushing brutality. A lethal dose of poison to be consumed before becoming immune, the snake crawls through the baking desert sands in search of prey. Feroz is capable of some throat splitting vocals and the sinister and menacing “Through The Portal” is a fine example of the damage he can inflict. There is more to this one than meets the eye however with another almost ethereal passage providing an atmosphere that weighs heavy in the air while offering fleeting respite. A bass solo that mimics the guitar sound with its tapping is a tasteful nuance, the powerful drum sound the backbone upon which everything is delicately draped.

Black Metal guitars increase the intensity as “Ignis Immortalis” takes hold, the spoken word passage not breaking any of the rumbling bass with melody but instead driving down the darkness. An almost choral passage of cleaner vocals rises to the surface after an acoustic break, a verse is sent to oblivion with one final moment of demonic depravity that wraps around the tune like a boa constrictor. A beast of cut that pushes the boundaries of the sub-genre to new heights, this one deserves a lot of attention. Captivating and enthralling “Shrine” is the magnum opus of the album as it reaches the seven minute mark for our deadly sins, a star destroying opening verse making way for a melodic passage as chinks of light pierce the dark clouds. A Progressive Death Metal leaning central bridge finds ATER pulling out a solo for the only time on the record, it’s classical style an indication of what these musicians are capable of when they crack skulls. Rather than deviate in trajectory any further, they instead return to type for a malevolent contorting passage of Thall that hits with the force of a Richter scale registering earthquake.

The suffocating “Sæculi Fine” pulls all of the oxygen from the room in alarming fashion, leaving the discerning listener choking on dust and ash as the depths of the grooves hit like repeated blunt force traumas. Searching for and finding balance, a delicate acoustic passage offers new hope only to be decimated by what follows. A passage that could best be described as the soundscape to a vision in psychological horror, it burns and blinds like acid. How to fittingly conclude an album of such Extreme Metal brutality is an open question; with “Solitude” ATER offer an instrumental both abstract and bleak which makes one question the perception of ones on reality. Be warned, once you’ve opened Pandora’s box you won’t be able to put everything back and this brutal offering will scatter to the four corners of the globe with the plague winds upon which it came very quickly… [8/10]

Track Listing

  1. Striges
  2. Descending
  3. Somber
  4. Through The Portal
  5. Ignis Immortalis
  6. Shrine
  7. Sæculi Fine
  8. Solitude

Somber” by ATER is out 19th April 2024 via Torque Records and is available over at bandcamp

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