Atræ Bilis – Apexapien Review

Atræ Bilis unlocked a whole other level of riff when they dropped Divinihility last year. The Canadian death troupe demolished kingdoms as far as the eye could see, razing the ground with razor-sharp riffs and songwriting tighter than the leather pants of your average hair metal frontman. That EP rocked my entire world for months on end, and I repeatedly return to it more than a year later. Today, I have in my hands the debut full-length by these chaps, entitled Apexapien. Now signed to 20 Buck Spin, Atræ Bilis set their sights on greater exposure in the metalverse, and this new record promises to deliver everything the EP displayed, but MOAR of it. Nothing would make me happier!

Apexapien is a different animal than Divinihility, but all the same it is quintessential Atræ Bilis. It might seem like a bit of a stretch to use the term “quintessential” to describe a band whose existence barely encompasses three years on our lonely little marble, but they established a unique sound and character from the very start, and they press on, sure of who they are and what they do best. David Stepanavicius churns twisted riff after twisted riff into the fierce rhythms pulsing from the extremities of drummer Luka Govednik. Brendan Campbell pummels the earth with unrelenting fervor, delivering thick rumbles from the metallic strings of his bass. Surging forth a wave of putrid expulsion, Jordan Berglund emits filthy retches from his tortured gullet. His vocals span the gamut of extremity, providing ample texture into this new album which bursts with vile chunks of energy and swagger for all of thirty-two marrow-mashing minutes.

Apexapien is, at its core, a successful exercise in stylistic variety. Far from worthless, instrumental opener “Theta” establishes the framework within which the rest of the album constructs itself. The riffing style and weight you experience here feature heavily across the record, but Atræ Bilis provide ample enough twists to mitigate stagnation. “Lore Beyond Bone” and “Open the Effigy” serve as evidence to that end, suddenly exploring far more dissonant environs than the band had ventured previously. At first, I feared that Atræ Bilis decided to abandon the immense grooves of Divinihility once I realized how much more dissonance this album contains, but tracks like “Bacterium Abloom” and closer “To Entomb the Aetherworld” assuaged my worried mind with elephantine rhythms that will immediately cause whiplash in their victims. Apexapien further explores the band’s technical side as well, pairing tectonic chugs with odd time signatures and detailing the space with melodic leads and the occasional tremolo (“Hymn of the Flies” is a fine example thereof).

If vitality and variety are Apexapien’s greatest strengths, then strict formulation and lack of memorability are its greatest detractors. There are several points where this album fails to allow its best moments and songs to land, which is key to establishing a lasting imprint on its audience. Far too many of these tracks end abruptly, and begin just as abruptly. Because of this, I struggle to recognize when one song passes the baton, ultimately creating a nebulous misrepresentation of the album’s form which I constantly rediscover is inaccurate each time I revisit. If a couple of songs in the thick of it simply faded out or gave me an extra two or three seconds of silence before their relative successors entered, the problem would resolve. Additionally, the album starts plagiarizing itself right about where “Into the Seas of Sepsis” reaches its midpoint. I think the issue lies in song composition. As praised earlier, the album offers an immense amount of variety in the individual parts that make up each entry. However, the particular order in which those elements come into frame hardly ever changes. This tactic limits the album and robs a great deal of character from individual songs, which would otherwise give the album as a whole a more expressive personality.

There’s still a lot to get excited about with Atræ Bilis, and Apexapien is a solid debut record. It’s tight, devastatingly heavy, and offers a lot of stylistic diversity which should widen its appeal by a significant margin. On the other hand, there’s still a lot of room for growth, mainly in terms of infrastructure and magnetism. I fell in love with Divinihility in no small part because its constituent parts were distinct and contributed their own character to the whole, without abandoning the band’s core identity. Apexapien retains that same identity, but it seems I’ll have to wait for Atræ Bilis‘s second LP before they make me fall head over heels again.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Websites: facebook.com/atraebilis | atraebilisdeath.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: October 8th, 2021

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