I don’t trust my friends. Or, perhaps I should say that when it comes to music, I can’t trust them. You see, as someone who consumes endless hours of punk rock, then records his precious thoughts and interpretations on the internet, I tend to be a little jaded. So, when a buddy alerts me to the existence of an ‘awesome’ band with a free album on bandcamp, I ready myself to shrug my shoulders and offer a paternal (but ultimately still condescending) “nice try, pal.” Although this has undoubtedly been more or less the rule in the past, I can happily say that I’ve been turned on to a gem.
Atlas At Last is a continuation of DC’s rich and storied punk legacy. Their sound is a seamless merging of melody and chaos, strongly rooted in post-hardcore with a hint of screamo dynamics. The instrumentation is raw and cathartic, as the unhinged opening of “Atlas” shows. Sometimes the vocals take on the quality of a machine gun, shooting down lines of poetry with a rat-a-tat cadence, but other times it slows to a soulful croon, and then others are delivered with a throat-shredding scream. Broken free of the verse-chorus aesthetic, Atlas At Last’s songwriting has a fluid quality that is as musically interesting as it is artistically expressive.
“Jagged Edges” is one of my favorite tracks on the self-titled. It’s opening, which undulates with the singer’s intensity works like the Pixies soft-hard dynamic on a smaller scale. Moving from a dreamlike and lackadaisical guitar melody, the band brings in a powerful ending accompanied by a catchy vocal line (“with its jagged edges sawed, I thought I thawed you out, but I see, now, that your hands are still cold.”). That is one of the things that struck me the hardest about Atlas At Last– the sheer amount of melody they bring to the table. While post-hardcore isn’t traditionally known as a genre brimming with tunefulness, they have managed to incorporate it with such a level of skill that adds a certain uniqueness to their sound.
The album ends with the monster of a song “In the Company Of..” It opens with the line, “galaxies are born like exploding rose petals.” Beyond it’s head turning imagery, it also represents the continuation of a theme on the self-titled. The other mention of rose petals comes from “Flora,” in which the narrator says “there’s a valley between myself – rose petals on a bed of nails – that I toss and turn and get the best sleep of my life on.” I like albums that use their context effectively and present themselves as more than just a collection of songs. What is the importance of rose petals? Are they representative of a sort of juxtaposition between pain and beauty? Maybe. Perhaps, they mean something different in each context, but to be honest, I’m not entirely sure of their meaning. But at the end of the day, I value its abstract quality precisely because it forces me to consider it rather than render it disposable.
Atlas At Last knocked me back with their original and refreshing take on post-hardcore. To find such a beautiful, cathartic, and cohesive debut is a rarity indeed. For those of you predisposed to the style, check this one out here.
Maybe, I should give my friends more credit.