If life really is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, then France’s Ataraxie have an unenviable inside line. Doom metal is always downtrodden, and its more extreme iterations never fail to manifest the maudlin. But the inherent ceremony and circumstance rarely coalesce into as voracious a sonic black hole as heard on Résignés. The band’s fourth album is an unnatural aperture into a single moment of crushing and immutable understanding. Although it doesn’t deviate from their discography’s trajectory, it just might perfect it. I often feel like death-doom has a retrospective quality. Lamentations of what could or should have been. Threnodies of times that will never be again. Résignés offers a much more horrific immediacy. This album is the instant the penny drops and reaches terminal velocity en route to the realization that the deaf ears we are screaming into are long dead. Résignês is the moment hope fails.
The album encapsulates the titular resignation that death is the only deliverance from an increasingly absent world. Over the course of four momentous songs, Résignés invites us to join Ataraxie on these final steps towards oblivion. To this end, the material is knowingly thematic. Opener, “People Swarming, Evil Ruling,” boasts the most traditional structure of the album and wields a dramatic death march as a main riff. Soon, a crooked melody appears and shepherds the leaden advance as it slips and slithers between the dense rhythm. It’s this vague beacon that guides us through the tumult, but as the album progresses, it also becomes more esoteric. The title track focuses less on typical riffing and more on churning passages that violently ebb and flow before an explosive finale. On the face of it, “Résignés” comes in answer to the previous song, but really it’s a microcosm of the entire album; a disoriented and reactive processing of an unwelcome reality.
Due to its pace, doom metal is often quantified with a lexicon that tends towards the minimalist. The key to Ataraxie‘s success is actually the material’s relative extravagance. Despite the often glacial pace, no part of the album is anything less than indulgent. Only one quarter of Résignés dips below the twenty-minute mark. But even the song lengths feel like a creative choice. Four titanic psalms whose tortuous span is a vain attempt to exorcise toxic emotion. Bassist, vocalist, and band mastermind Jonathan Théry delivers a tectonic death roar but also splices his performance with more legitimately pained screams. The combination works well to meld the two genres the band straddle. The death metal presented isn’t merely required to inform the vocals. Instead, it succinctly yet tempestuously stirs itself into the mix. “Coronation of the Leeches” opens with a lull, reeling from the title track. It soon begins to spasm with fits of schizophrenic rage before calming, only to inconsolably erupt again. The song fits the theme of denial. It’s a struggle, but an eventual concession.
The honesty of funeral doom lies in the genre’s clear warnings, like rare neon branded into monochrome flesh. For those with an aversion to ponderous form or overt song-length, Résignés is not for you. At 83 minutes, absolutely nothing about the album is casual. Résignés doesn’t lend itself to constant repetition and often exacts a heavy toll. There can be no denying it represents a challenge. But never a chore. Fortunately, we can all agree on the quality of the production. The unique feature of Ataraxie‘s current line-up is the inclusion of two new guitarists joining stalwart Frédéric Patte-Brasseur. The three combine beautifully in the mix and create a rich palette of guitar lines. Théry’s terrifying bass drives the vast riffs, so that when “Les Affres du Trépas” finally rolls around, we’re ready for the end. And that is exactly what the song is. It lumbers with a distraught trudge, which eventually turn into a heartbroken tremolo. It builds and builds before abruptly cutting off. Dead.
Ataraxie have carved grotesquely close to the bone. While, conceptually, it resigns itself to humanity’s inevitable collision course with disaster, culturally, Résignés also looks irrevocably forward. No other band can claim to progress the genre in such a way. If you have any interest in the evolution of extreme music and all that it implies, then this is mandatory listening. But beware: to indulge in Ataraxie‘s nihilism is to invite a neutron star of heaviness that crushes bone within seconds, but souls for all eternity.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Xenokorp/Deadlight Records/Weird Truth Productions
Websites: ataraxie.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/ataraxiedoom
Releases Worldwide: March 8th, 2019