Anima Nostra - AtramentsIn my time writing at AMG, I’ve described albums as everything from “emotionally gripping” to “the pungent air inside my friend’s asshole.” Yet I’ve never heard something I’d actually call “scary.” That changed, however, upon my first listen of Anima Nostra’s sophomore album Atraments. Walking on an unlit path in the woods near my apartment, it took all of two minutes into the record’s opening track before I yanked out my headphones, turned around, and uttered a big “Nope!”

I didn’t expect something so frightening. With a lineup consisting of Swedish dark ambient maestro Henrik Nordvargr Björkk and U.K.-based artist Margaux Renaudin, Anima Nostra is a collaborative duo that was billed as a hybrid between doom metal, industrial, and neoclassical. But instead of the doomier Godflesh I was expecting, Atraments is like a more industrial Void of Silence or The Axis of Perdition minus the black metal. In fact, this is really a dark ambient album at heart, to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t a single guitar used in its recording. Instead, we’re treated to layers upon layers of throbbing electronics, garbled death roars, humming ambiance, spooky background noises, and repetitive industrial beats that garnish the album with a creepy, ritualistic vibe.

I don’t use the word “creepy” lightly. If you have insomnia this may be just the remedy, because after hearing Atraments you probably won’t want to fall asleep. Opener “Composition for the Shadow Self” fosters the dense and eerie atmosphere from the start, beginning with bone-chilling ambient effects that sound like a mix of distant machinery and rattling chains. The noises are soon overlaid by a flurry of hammering beats that alternately sputter and pause, like a broken generator attempting to restart itself in the midst of some gray dystopia. Embellished with vaguely mechanical roars, the harrowing mood continues into follow-up “Naamah,” which swirls muffled whispers, cult incantations, and rattling noises together into a three-minute instrumental that will have you rifling through the closet for your teddy bear and Hello Kitty nightlight.

This compelling atmosphere is Atraments’ greatest strength, but the record’s variety is also notable. “Solemn Majesty” and early highlight “Blameless” stand out for their pounding tribal beats which recall the sometimes hypnotic nature of aforementioned Godflesh, with “Majesty” even featuring a Dracula-esque church organ and “Blameless” including something of a hook with its repeated vocal motif (“We have not sinned!”). Later, “Anima Nostra” works faint air siren wailing into its thrumming distortion, while “Doxologia Yaldabaoth” is built upon a deep electronic pulse that sounds like an audio recording of Cthulhu’s heartbeat. Female crooning, monk chanting, and garbled speeches round out the rest of Atraments’ 43 minutes, with the results being both compelling and genuinely unsettling.

Anima Nostra 2017

Variety and atmosphere aren’t everything, however, and Atraments possesses a debilitating issue. Namely, when listened to as actual music and not just background noise, this record feels largely pointless. Aforementioned opener “Composition,” for example, builds excellent tension with its sputtering beats; however, it simply persists with this idea and then ends six minutes later without ever offering any sort of climax or resolution. While tracks like “Blameless” work because of their pounding repetition, most songs simply feel like they exist to be creepy and little else. Though there are a plethora of well-layered effects which give the record a rich soundscape, this isn’t an album which contains any real riffs or melodies, which dilutes its appeal and makes its “doom metal” label questionable at best and misleading at worst.

Full disclosure: I’m far from an ambient connoisseur. Because of this, I found it difficult to judge Atraments because, in a lot of ways, I think it achieves exactly what it set out to do. But ultimately, regardless of my familiarity with the genre, I can’t help but think that my enjoyment of the record is marred by the fact that these nine tracks ultimately feel less like compositions that flow and develop and more like haunted house recordings with an industrial garnish. While some may say I’m missing the point, lots of metal bands (including Void of Silence) manage to infuse ambient elements while still creating songs that offer plenty of payoffs. Hats off to Anima Nostra for being so downright terrifying, but in the end Atraments, just feels like all bark and no bite.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Malignant Records
Releases Worldwide: June 16th, 2017

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  • Wes Allen

    So far the only metal to genuinely freak me out is “Descending Jacob’s Ladder” by Dodecahedron.
    Your review has certainly piqued my interest.

    • Merijn Kooijman

      That’s my favorite Dodecahedron track. It’s part of my spooky ambient/metal playlist.

      • rumour_control

        Do tell of said playlist.

        • Drew Music

          Indeed, the people wanna know!

        • Merijn Kooijman

          It’s not big. Not many of such songs are actually good, like you say. But this makes for a good vibe.

          In this order:
          Carach Angren – Seven pairs of demon eyes

          Jacob’s ladder

          Insect Ark – Taalith

          Shining (nor) – Psalm (no sax ;) )

          Al di Meola – Isfahan

          Enslaved – Axioma

          Mar de Grises – Aphelion Aura

          Any additions are welcome :D

          • rumour_control

            Admirable and appreciated. Thank you, sir. di Meola is an inspired selection. Not metal, but just about any selection off Lustmord’s Krakow is recommended for ye olde ‘lights out and all the spirits are about’ atmosphere.

          • Jamie

            I can add a few (if you see this) – while I just lost my HD :< I do make halloween playlists every year with creepy songs, some metal, some not. I'll try to remember some good picks:

            Blut Aus Nord – Epitome XIII
            Madder Mortem – Cold Stone
            AIMON – Amen
            Portal – Curtain
            Imperial Triumphant – Krokodil

            Halo Manash – ast unTA AKSElin
            Nurse With Wound – I've Plumbed This Whole Neighborhood
            Current 93 – I Have A Special Plan For This World

            Gnaw Their Tongues – Bubonic Burial Rites
            Venetian Snares – All The Children Are Dead
            Gazelle Twin – Anti Body
            Pharmakon – Body Betrays Itself

          • Merijn Kooijman

            Nice suggestions. Thanks.

  • Jeff Manteiga

    Anima NOSTRA…Savage SINUSoid…I’m detecting a pattern here. I’ll let you nose when I figure it out. Embedded track is pretty dull btw.

    • You wot m8?

      Something, something-something, something: (((JEWS))). Something.
      K done now.

      • Jeff Manteiga

        I just meant they both sound like they’re about noses. =

        • Drew Music

          He did, too.

          • Name’s Dalton


        • Ivan E. Rection

          So I guess this is snot what you had in mind.

  • Well, hello…Kitty!

  • rumour_control

    “Namely, when listened to as actual music and not just background noise, this record feels largely pointless.” — Therein lies the point, which is why I enjoy most dark ambient pieces.

    • You wot m8?

      Something else that is largely pointless: Giving an ambient album a 2.5 for being, largely, “too ambient”.

      • Drew Music

        Such a hit or miss component, the ambient element. For example, Uneven Structure’s Februus’s first disc utilizes ambience as an additional layer to the songs and it’s awesome; the second disc is nothing but ambient flow, and I never, ever revisit it. Apparently I can only handle it in smaller doses, but when utilized correctly I fucking love proper ambient noise.

      • Nukenado

        Everything can overstay their welcome. Too much noise and distortion and you get Tetragrammicide, too much cheese and you get Sonata Arctica lyrics, too much lyrical repetition and you get Hydra by Within Temptation. There’s a limit to everything, and as the AMG tagline says, less is more.

  • Drew Music

    You guys get to find so much out-there, unheard-of shit AND have your opinions on said mystery material respected by a particularly dark and wonderful corner of the interwebz, and I am so fucking envious of y’all for it. As with any time I’m in the warm but vice-like grip of Allen’s coffee brandy, all I can think of is how much I want to do what y’all do, especially if it was on this site specifically. I know y’all inherently hate all new blood, but I also know that occasionally there is new blood flowing through these angry metal cogs, who do I have to kill in order to be given a shot at contributing to this beast? Is there somewhere I can at least send something to be ignored under the pretense of consideration? I’m sure y’all get bombarded by similar requests, but I seriously and completely love this site and all it’s about; I recommend this page to every vaguely metal-seeming individual who crosses my path, I religiously check this page and scour the archives to attain metal wisdomz, and I already more or less draft reviews of everything I listen to just to have something to write about… I dunno I’m just drunk and silly, ignore me if you must, just please consider this particular angry metal lad if there are openings in the future I guess.

    • Go track down the post about being angry, metal and wanting to write about it and follow the directions.

      • Drew Music

        That is so much gentler of a response than I expected. Will do, though I might wait for Dr. Allen to be gone. Thanks for replying, anyway, and for keeping the tiny shred of faith in humanity left in me alive!

        • rumour_control

          It’s got faith in you, too. Great words, good doctor.

          • Drew Music

            It is amazing to the point of horrific how verbose yet eloquent I can be whilst hammered… And apparently brave enough to bare my soul and beg for a home haha

          • rumour_control

            Yours is no disgrace.

          • Drew Music

            This time, anyway.

          • Dr. Wvrm

            The former quality would serve you well, trust me.

          • Drew Music

            “Time to review something, better get hammered.”

          • Dr. Wvrm

            More like “Time to review something.”

        • spämbot

          Good luck!

      • rumour_control

        You’re a good man, Steel.

      • [not a Dr]
    • herrschobel

      judging from your posts i read in the past i believe you can do it….so go for the crown boy !

    • HeavyMetalHamster
    • HeavyMetalHamster

      As long as you don’t start each review with “so I sayz to the guy…..” you’ll do alright…..

  • I think it’s swell this site keeps reviewing noise but why is it foisted on reviewers with no interest in the style? I would have sworn madam x and al are fans.

  • This style of metal is generally not my cup of tea but the embedded track actually piqued my interest. I don’t know that I could sit through a full album of this but I do think it would be a good bit of fun to try listening to this while strolling through the woods. I’m not sure that’s what the review was suggesting but I’ll have to give it a shot (I’ll be sure to bring my daughter’s Minnie Mouse flash light with me, though).

  • Patrick Bertlein

    As you said, not a genre you are familiar with. And I hear plenty of doom.