Atlas Pain - What the Oak LeftI like folk metal. It’s best when it takes the form of black metal infused with instrumentation and arrangements native to its respective country. Saor, Panopticon, and Nechochwen are truly great examples of this. The upbeat frolics of Finntroll, Korpiklaani, and their ilk are not merely average by comparison but actively annoying. I find their attempts at inducing happiness grating and vapid. There are logically two conclusions which I would likely reach following my random selection of Atlas Pain‘s What the Oak Left: delight or irritation. Which was it? I’m afraid you’ll have to read on because otherwise, I’ll have wasted my time writing 500 further words.

Folk metal is broad descriptor so I’ll first attempt to capture the essence of these fervent Italians. The best starting point is the compositions and density of Wintersun but with less black metal, more power metal and an ear for cheeriness above grandiosity. What the Oak Left is buoyant and nimble but thankfully avoids the bounciness which plagues other similar bands. There are significant classical elements too, almost occupying as much space as the metal. A typical range of symphonic instrumentation is present and correct (strings, piano, choir, xylophone) but it’s more than a basic backing track: a stellar effort is made to bridge the 2 styles. Rounding out the package are the curious yet pleasingly melodic, semi-harsh vocals and an effective layer of chugging guitars which demonstrate some decent riff-writing chops.

The metal and classical parts always work in tandem rather than counterpointing each other. Harmonies between violins and clean guitars are prevalent throughout, as are harmonies of the rasping growls with clean singing or choral chants. The choruses of “To the Moon” and “From the Lighthouse” best demonstrate the latter, both of which have uber-catchy vocal melodies. The net result of the effective fusion between these elements is that you’re able to headbang to the heavy stuff but also enjoy the alluring quality of the lightness. What the Oak Left is incredibly melodic, though. Beware the overwhelmingly heroic quality to the solos (hear “The Storm”) and the sincere, uplifting heights which a lot of this music reaches. I really don’t mean this negatively but the comparison I’ll invoke is Disney: nobility, hopefulness, and color characterize Atlas Pain. The bombastic closer, “White Overcast Line,” exemplifies this but is assuredly enjoyable.

Atlas Pain 2017While What the Oak Left is jam-packed with satisfying material as documented above, I’m unfortunately left with the feeling that it’s somehow less than the sum of its parts. I’m enjoying it currently but I’m quite confident that it won’t endure the year. Perhaps it’s the unremitting stylistic consistency which lacks outstanding moments to energize proceedings. Perhaps it’s the relatively banal production. Perhaps it’s that more isn’t done to contrast the metal and symphonic instrumentation, instead of simply harmonizing everything. It’s just not as good as it could be even if striking on first listen.

Still, Atlas Pain have released a commendable album for their first full-length. It captures a sense of adventure and makes for an enjoyable listening experience. The detailed compositions ensure the soaring melodies are not so superficial as to pass ineffectually over your head and the classical elements are better integrated than by many of the band’s peers. My overall satisfaction is perhaps diluted in comparison with a song-by-song analysis but there are strong foundations here from which improvement is certainly possible.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps MP3
Label: Scarlet Records
Websites: atlaspain.it | facebook.com/atlaspain
Releases worldwide: March 10th, 2017

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  • Nag Dammit

    Disney metal. Can they talk to animals?Otherwise they’re posers.

    • [not a Dr]

      Talking to animals is easy. Getting them to listen is the hard part.

  • contenderizer

    WTF

  • ssorg

    They’ve basically taken power metal and made it more cringeworthy, despite adding non-clean vocals. WTF is right.

    • ssorg

      That said, it’s not as bad if you don’t watch the video. Just don’t watch the video.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        DON’T WATCH THE VIDEO!

        • sir_c

          fuuuuuuuck i watched the video

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Two people told you not to…

          • sir_c

            This is one of those reviews where you first should have read the comments section.

      • contenderizer

        Yeah, true. You can shave it down “merely shitty” by closing your eyes.

  • Jeffrey Carter

    Is this like What Does the Fox Say?

  • madhare

    Cover art ripped from Sonata Arctica? Didn’t they or Stratov. have something like this?

    • ssorg

      Looks like a pretty killer board game cover, tbh

  • Disney Presents a Clockwork Orange?

  • PotaD0s

    I have no love for Korpiklaani or Finntroll, but I find this far more vapid and annoying than either of those two bands.

    Also, that video is fucking awful.

  • Chris

    Wow, that was just…bad. That’s coming from someone who likes both Korpiklaani and Finntroll as “guilty pleasure” bands (sue me).

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Well, El Cuervo, you either have an open mind and great maturity or didn’t look at the band picture or watch the accompanying video, since you didn’t mention how ridiculous their aspects and visuals are.

    Maybe they wanted something eye-catching but as for band image I’ll take “budget corpsepaint” over this every day of the week. Their music is merely OK but the ridiculous factor made me not want to care.

    I really want to know what Thatguy’s Band Photometer has to say about this picture… and video.

    • [not a Dr]

      I know what it will say!
      Thatguy’s Bandphotometer says Thatguy is a miserable bastard and his heart is black as coal.
      But I want to see how it reaches that conclusion this time.

  • hallowed

    Atlas Pain is exactly what I feel by lifting too much weight in the gym trying to impress the ladies passing by.

  • Matt slatz

    Caption for that band photo. “OK boys who’s up for a game of phantasm?”

  • Reese Burns

    Every time a band bills themselves as folk metal and they sound like Fintroll or Korpeklanni I die a little inside.

  • Akira Watts

    “So we’ve been talking, and we’re not convinced that steampunk is quite silly enough. There must be a way to look even more ridiculous, right?”

    I kind of dug the song, in a guilty pleasure sort of way, but Jesus fuck is that a terrible look they’ve got going.

  • Tim

    Nifelwind was fucking awesome…

  • sir_c

    Jumanji meets Rhapsody of Fire

  • FugitiveTXs

    God Damnit! Why do I feel like I just got Rick-rolled?

  • Marc Rikmenspoel

    Where did an Italian guy find a baseball bat?

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Fuck it, I like it.

  • Not for me, but at least they seem to be having fun. Possibly too much.

  • Norpal Nordickson

    Please don’t equate Korpiklaani and Finntroll. Korpiklaani fucking bore me to tears whereas Finntroll are really really good.

  • Tofu muncher

    the whole album is quite fun imo. More like an accompaniment music while bathing the cat and the likes.

  • Brian Kelly

    it was just kind of boring, the song with the video is probably the most catchy, the rest kind of blends together and is ok for background music.