Atavisma – The Chthonic Rituals (2018) REVIEW

Whether you’re describing genetic trait re-emergence as a biologist or cultural trends of reversion as a sociologist the concept of atavism suggests a reprisal of ancestry, and expression of the old ways. Controversial as it may be in terms of social Darwinism, for many folks a ‘return to their roots’ provides vital identity when their environs provides none but chaos. Paris based death metal outfit Atavisma‘s sound reflects their namesake wholeheartedly as they combine the finer elements of Swedish death metal, Finnish death/doom and some hulking Craig Pillard-esque vocals. ‘The Chthonic Rituals’ finds the young band volleying their strengths deftly within pensive death/doom that makes a fully convincing argument for their readiness set to a full-length’s worth of ideas.

Throughout the band’s short career thus far they’ve shown small flits of growth with each release. This evidentiary succession of evolution began with a merciless Swedish buzzsaw guitar tone and Avatisma guitarist main songwriter G. (Acedia Mundi) used the Boss HM-2‘s thrusting sound for dynamic, crawling rhythms akin to early Amorphis on their first single ‘Forsaken’ (2014). This lead to their ‘Where Wolves Once Dwelled’ demo that same year showcasing a far more typical ‘bouncing’ Swedish death metal approach to riffs alongside distinctly deep, fractured vocals. It would appear that songwriting sessions between 2015 and 2017 largely account for the songs included on ‘The Chthonic Rituals’ including an extended version of “A Subterranean Life” from their split with Indonesian black/doom band Maur in 2015.

Atavisma‘s ‘On the Ruins of a Fallen Empire’ EP in 2017 hinted at the style of their full-length but in hindsight does no great justice as a teaser for the ground they cover on ‘The Chthonic Rituals’. Expectant fans will be relieved to find a death metal record as ambitious as Disma‘s ‘Towards the Megalith’ with hints of Symptom‘s death/doom and Vastum‘s knack for threading together a bigger picture. Of course the compositions are a mix that evoke different points of conception so one song might sound more like Incantation (“Ashen Ascetic”) while another might be something completely new and exciting for Atavisma‘s sound (“Monoliths”.)

The album is less a ride and more of a creeping descent that begins with a drum solo and blasts into the an energetic Carnage-style ripper (“Extraneous Abysmal Knowledge”) and from there it oozes forth Rottrevore‘s alchemical stirrings as the album rolls towards increasingly Krypts style death/doom territory on the second half. “Monoliths” is the most unexpected, and in turn most memorable, track as it kicks off the B-side of the record. Looking at the band’s short discography from start to finish I can confidently say they’ve realized that original vision of classic Swedish death metal fused with the heavier side of death/doom. I wouldn’t say Avatisma‘s sound is incredibly memorable nor is their songwriting hugely transformative outside of some strong dips into death/doom riffing as well as the considerably powerful old school death metal of the album’s first side.

‘The Chthonic Rituals’ is appealing for it’s niche and high quality alike; This is a record for die-hards and death fanatics seeking deeper, perfected connections between modern Incantation and Scandinavian death metal tonality. That isn’t to say Atavisma have crafted a predictable release and “Invocation of Archaic Deities” and the verging-on-funeral death/doom of “A Subterranean Life” offer larger variation than was expected. They’ve laid down the groundwork for their own musical personality and at the very least it is all done in great taste. Highly recommended listening and a decent standout in a crowded death metal release schedule this July.


Artist Atavisma
Type Album
Released July 23, 2018
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PREVIEW ‘Invocation of Archaic Deities” on YouTube

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Death Metal,
Death Doom Metal

 Machines invade our lands. 4.25/5.0


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