9th June 2017 – Witch Hunter Records
02. Monastery of Silence
03. I, Necromancer
04. Wallowing Wizard
05. The Dead Weight of Unimportant Flesh
06. Jesus Wept
07. Guilt Returns
Stoner rock is so fucking wholesome. A genre designed around satisfying, beefy riffs not only makes it generally gregarious but with such fun foundations allows it to drift into tangents without losing its audience. This is the mainstay of Atragon, and their new album I, Necromancer.
Kicking off with “Matriarch“, Atragon craft a wall of fuzz with a lovely bass-heavy guitar sound that thunders away, remaining consistent throughout the entire record. These foundations allow the vocals to sit comfortably on top; this mix is crucial for records such as these. Here, it sounds tidy and modern.
Their sound has nods towards prog, psych, doom and heavy blues; there are strong Electric Wizard vibes, but with more of a sense of momentum, purpose and direction. “I, Necromancer” throws some fun intros and extended instrumentals into the mix; there’s less a sense of experimentation with their songwriting, which allows their thick guitar tones to remain at the forefront.
The one major shift is concluding track “Guilt Returns“, a heartfelt vocal sermon that reminds me of last year’s excellent Zeal & Ardor record. Thematically it fits and sonically it expands a fairly linear stoner doom sound. Its placement on the record, however, is a little unusual; it feels like it should build a little more for a concluding track, though the sudden change in mood is unexpected and does help to round off the album. I found myself wishing these were more elements like this spaced out throughout the album and they’d focussed on applying these elements more evenly.
Atragon push all the right buttons for a killer stoner band, but there are hints that they’re going for more of an unusual horror/demented pastor approach. These flare up from time to time but aren’t always completely consistent. This doesn’t ruin the album at all; tracks like “Wallowing Wizard” and the massive “Jesus Wept” are amongst the most fun things released this year. The main appeal of this record is how solid and unwavering the conviction is; stoner doom doesn’t always need to be endlessly inventive, but it does need to believe in it’s power. Atragon deliver this in buckets.
I, Necromancer is an excellent drinking partner. Deeply satisfying, Atragon could do with committing to chancing their arm a little more or really sorting their USP, but otherwise have created a thunderous, compelling record which sits amongst the best stoner releases of the year.