Written By: Hell³
Truth is, I envy the good people of Spain. Even if they didn’t host those big metal festivals and benefit from constant visits by artists who would never think of coming to my native México, their concert-goer logistical advantages are undeniably desirable. For example, they can jump on a train for a few hours for the chance to, say, attend one of the Altar of Plagues farewell tour dates (fuck, that hurt more than it should’ve), whereas, if I want to catch a train to the US, it would have to be “La Bestia.” Yes that’s Spanish for “The Beast,” also un-ironically known as, “The Death Train.” As metal as that sounds, I assure you it’s no fun, and your ticket includes many an actual life threatening experience. Still, few would say the Spanish musical scene is particularly vibrant or influential these days. Even without the geographical and language barriers, there seems to be an isolation that only their biggest artists seem able to overcome. So, I really didn’t have much to go when deciding to review the Desintegración EP from newcomers Atavismo. Just language recognition, a vague memory of high school biology, and a “Space Rock” tag, yet I pressed on in the name of Mexican-Spanish relations.
The venn diagram of psychedelic rock fans and heavy metal fans have an intersection locus larger than many might think. Besides the obvious fact that Pink Floyd has a space in every moderately enthusiastic melomaniac collection, genre cross-pollination generated interest in bands like Earthless and Porcupine Tree from what are generally segregated fan bases. This intersection can be greatly reduced if we talk about jam bands. Heavy on the “You had to be there” mentality, the improvisational excesses attract a much more specific taste. Fortunately, even if Atavismo identifies themselves as belonging to this subset, their compositional chops are mature enough to avoid losing themselves in noodle-intensive wankery and revelry.
Generally speaking, this is a record that despite coming from a jam improv tradition, is very concise. With only four tracks over 37 minutes, the band offers skilled musical arrangements structurally simple but emotionally effective. Classic progressive builds are used carefully to create interesting moods and coupled with a solid, if a bit squashed production. It has a good balance that allows just enough space for a vibrant bass and very active battery work, providing effective counterpoints to the melodious guitar harmonies. The first standout is “Kraken” which features a great crescendo on the second half of the song based on a simple riff that may remind some of The Eye of Every Storm era of Neurosis, with a heavy Pink Floyd influence as well. Hailing from a port city, they almost had to have a song like “Oceánica,” which is a wistful aquatic arrangement bathed in lush ambient electronica, with a climactic resolution using distortion to create one of the album’s heaviest moments. Closer “Meeh” (I don’t get it either, really) is probably the weakest and most monotonous, and overstays its welcome. Despite that, it has a decent Middle Eastern guitar arrangement that livens things up when present.
If Atavismo is an example of what Spain currently has to offer, it may well be on the verge of a musical renaissance, and despite it’s minor flaws, Desintegración is a solid debut full of atmosphere and personality. With soulful performances and solid musicianship, their Mediterranean take on 70’s psychedelia may even leave you comfortably numb.