Historically I’ve not been awfully big on punk, particularly in its more melodic forms. More recently, though, I’ve been warming to the genre. I’ve always loved grindcore, am increasingly enjoying crust and hardcore, and the past year has seen me revisiting – and, swipe me, enjoying – The Offspring. I was not familiar with Atlas Losing Grip before receiving this promo, as they swim solely in the melodic end of the punk pool that I had previously spurned. Don’t worry though Atlas lads (Atlads? Eh…), I no longer hold a grudge against your chosen genre. In fact, I was pretty keen to hear your album as it’s received some glowing reviews from the punk press and beyond. What does this album have to offer your average metalhead, then?
Well for starters, Atlas Losing Grip are possibly the most Metallica-influenced punk band in the world. We’re talking good, wholesome, pre-Bob Rock Metallica too, so the crossover appeal is clear. The opening of “Sinking Ship” could provide an alternative start to Master of Puppets, so strong is the Hetfield/Hammett influence. But Atlas Losing Grip are still a melodic punk band at their core, and as the verse kicks in this becomes apparent. The song sounds like an almost perfect blend of vintage Metallica with Rise Against at their best, full of memorable hooks, emotive guitar lines, and punk energy. Already one of my favorite tracks this year.
The rest of the album continues this fine blend of influences, while varying the form and style of the songs. “The Curse,” “Shallow,” and “Kings and Fools,” reduce the punk with a slower melodic rock approach (“Kings and Fools” moving into Black Album territory), “Unknown Waters” and “The End” add a slight gothic touch to the melodies, while “Closure” and “Cold Dirt” are straight-up ballads. The band are at their strongest at their most aggressive, though, with tracks like opener “Sinking Ship,” “Cynosure,” “Nemesis,” “Cast Anchor” and “Downwind” exhibiting the best of their Metallica/Rise Against blend while adding more melodic hardcore influences from Bad Religion or even Modern Life Is War.
While the melodic rock songs are hardly bad, they are relatively simple and employ familiar chord progressions, standing up poorly against the punkier tracks. I’m afraid the ballads don’t do anything for me, though you may get something from “Closure” if you’re the kind of sap that would enjoy a folked up “Nothing Else Matters.”
The musicianship is excellent across the board, with Julian Guedj’s drumming and new singer Niklas Olsson’s powerful vocal delivery particular highlights. The production, though, is disappointing: while everything has apparently been recorded very well – perfect tone and instrumental balance – dynamic range compression noticeably denigrates the overall mix. The music loses some of its subtlety, and listening fatigue sets in before the halfway point. As you will have noticed from the number of tracks listed above, this is a long record: fourteen songs in sixty-seven minutes. Some judicious pruning would really improve the album – I’m unconvinced of the necessity of two ballads and four or five quite similar melodic rock tracks.
That said, Atlas Losing Grip’s blend of melodic rock, punk and Metallica is refreshing and wonderfully catchy, and some of the individual tracks (“Sinking Ship,” “Nemesis,” and the epic “Ithaka” in particular) are stellar. Currents isn’t without its flaws, but when they hit their stride Atlas Losing Grip are hard to beat for nuanced catchiness, and I’m looking forward to delving into their back-catalogue.