Every once in a while, the RMR deckhands like to pluck a totally unknown band and their newest concoction out of the ether. Not that plowing the underground will saddle us with a gazillion of new followers, their marketing skills and/or market power are often conspicuously absent. But the fresh sounds and tunes, untainted by the evil mainstream, are often irresistible.
Now, Athemon‘s current crew Tom MacLean, Adriano Ribeiro, and their guesting drummer and percussionist Gledson Gonçalves seem to have been around the block a few times. MacLean – for instance – formed part of Haken until the 2013 album The Mountain released and now resurfaced with this brand new outfit.
A band so new, they won’t even sport an entry in the metal archives yet at the time of writing this review. And their band site address resolves to their equally new Facebook page. Which is not necessarily testament to a great marketing strategy, and in more ways than one.1)
Now, the band’s self-titled debut hit us straight out of the left field. A record that chose an insect2) as its name and self-awareness as its theme. And – behold – the band’s lofty goal to create – and I quote “…the perfect alloy of darkness and beauty…” really stuck with us.
Well, nomen est omen, methinks. As the band name suggests, Athemon seem to use the development of a butterfly as a metaphor for their concept. And that, in itself, is already a pretty neat idea.
But what drew us to this record like the proverbial aforementioned butterfly to a flower is – of course – the metal. In a way, if ever somebody would search for a worthy successor for Nevermore, then Athemon here surely would be a good candidate. Not precisely so, of course, the record misses most of the thrash in there. But, it’s close enough – and it’s about as difficult to review.
Here’s to a band that doesn’t take prisoners. Already Perception takes the term pig-headed to the next level with a piece that seems to emerge somewhere out of Zierler‘s backyard. And I kinda got a kick out of the ‘stolen’ clicks of Heilung’s bones on that track. That’s pretty cool sampling right there – and it somehow fits the theme perfectly.
That the bass roars away more or less front-center added to the smile on my face already. But then, whatever record comes with the label of Fascination Street Studios will undoubtedly sport some uplift in quality. And as of Whispers, Athemon‘s affinity for Technical Metal and – yes – a fair dose of psychedelics becomes pretty apparent. The Glass Hindered Us follows in that same vein.
Yet, the excellent Seed of Change really takes the cake. Cool riffs, abundant chugging, djents, and even one of the rare solos will bring you variety that you won’t find anywhere else on the record. This track indeed carries a rare power that’s difficult to define. And methinks that Athemon truly hit the mark of their theme with that one.
It’s thus a pity that, after a while, we got ourselves a case of much more of the same. But the issue’s more subtle than just simple repetition. In other words, the tracks become somewhat interchangeable with each other. Which – again – isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a concept album, if a recurring theme is used, that is. And here, it isn’t. That made this reviewer’s mind wander off after a while, and not to yonder fantasy landscapes where neat butterflies dwell.
So, ultimately, Athemon got us somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand the record gorges with outstanding and – yes – eclectic prog that proudly sails on a mighty wave of psychedelics that we often found irresistible. On the other, however, the album often times out on difficult song patterns. And that isn’t helped by that endless cruising through soundscapes that we somehow visited before.
Yet, and the above negatives notwithstanding, the band sent us an extremely strong debut with a sturdy brand of Progressive Metal that definitely will resound with the community. And it already awoke that feral hunger in the RMR crew for more butterfly lore. You see, bands like Nevermore have been dead for a while, and we sorely missed that murky, hard-nosed, darkly ominous, and highly technical other side of prog ever since.
Welcome back. Athemon just picked up the baton. They’re the new kid on the block.
Ed’s note: Early 2022, Athemon signed with Wormholedeath that went with a subsequent re-release by 25 February of that same year. Cool news! They’re going places.
Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Facebook
Release Date: 11 October 2021