Artist: Atavistia

Album Title: The Winter Way

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 29 May 2020

I have ‘Time I’ in my collection as any self-respecting fan of heavy metal should, but to be perfectly honest, theirs is not the brand of heavy metal that I tend to get carried away with. I love melodic death metal, and I equally love black metal too. But not so much the kind that is imbued with folk melodies and overt symphonic elements. So why then, am I bringing you this review when the band at the centre of it play exactly this kind of music, that heavily draws inspiration from Wintersun, Ensiferum and the like?

I can give you no less than four reasons: Firstly, there are loads of you out there that do love this music and will be interested in finding out about Atavistia if they are not currently on your radar. Secondly, in lockdown, there’s more time to explore new music and I may as well put my time to good use. Thirdly, 2020 has seen me tackle my prejudices to the point that I now embrace music that I’d previously (and foolishly) sought to avoid because I thought I’d not like it. This kind of thing falls squarely into that sphere. And finally, it is sometimes a good thing to offer an opinion on music about which you have no prior knowledge, therefore coming at the results with fresh ears.

A little background research will tell you that Atavistia are a quartet hailing from Canada and are comprised of drummer Max Sepulveda, guitarist Dalton Meaden, bassist D’wayne Marray, and vocalist/guitarist Matt Sippola. ‘The Winter Way’ is apparently their sophomore release, following on from 2017’s ‘One Within The Sun’, which I’ll admit I haven’t heard. They remain unsigned but maybe ‘The Winter Way’ will be the next step in changing that? Let’s find out…


A couple of things immediately leap out at me as I listen to ‘The Winter Way’. Firstly, this is a big undertaking from this relatively new band. The album may only be comprised of seven tracks, with the first being an instrumental intro, but the whole thing clocks in at over an hour in length. It means that the shortest track on offer aside from the intro is just shy of nine minutes in length. That’s a bold approach, not without its risks, but it also hints at a band that are confident in their abilities. And, from an instrumental perspective, so they should be. There are some incredibly strong performances from all four corners of the band. Max Sepulveda is not afraid to mix things up, delivering some impressive blastbeats and lightning-fast fills when the need arises, alongside segments that call for more restraint. Guitarists Matt Sippola and Dalton Meaden are a good double-act too, with an ability to create cold, frosty black metal riffs alongside more muscular sounds, as well as plenty of expansive and virtuosic leads along the way.

It would therefore appear that all of the basic building blocks are in place for Atavistia to impress and push towards a bigger and brighter future. And for many of you who check this band out may well think that this is indeed the reality. Unfortunately, for me, try as I might, I can’t really warm to the record.

I admire the scope of the album; the way that it ebbs and flows, from quiet contemplative moments to all-out aggression, and from minimalist passages to more opulent, multi-layered parts. I like the use of the symphonics to create that bombast and sense of epic majesty, and I approve of the range of vocals used throughout, from gruff screams, to clean singing, via the occasional moody spoken-word approach. There is even the odd female voice to be heard. I can hear the Wintersun worship – to suggest otherwise would be disingenuous in the extreme – but I also hear plenty of ‘Spiritual Black Dimensions’-era Dimmu Borgir nestled within the compositions too, as those overblown symphonics and grandiose black metal influences come to the fore. One prime example would be within ‘The Forbidden One’, arguably one of the better songs on ‘The Winter Way’.

The problem for me, is that for all of the obvious effort, there’s something lacking with ‘The Winter Way’. I play it and I quite like it. But when it ends, I can’t really remember much about it, or recall moments within it where I lost my head, or smiled my usual goofy grin that often accompanies a melody, riff, or other idea that catches me and fires my enthusiasm. There are a few nice melodies to be heard, such as within the closing title track, but none of them punch their way out of the hubbub, to really make an impression. It feels like I am having to search through the layers of music to find these redeeming features. I suppose I just wish they were stronger, more impactful, and lasting.

It might sound like I’m being harsh, but that’s only because I can see a band with huge promise here. They have the talent, they have the ability, and they clearly have the imagination and work ethic to turn heads and create waves. Unfortunately, ‘The Winter Way’ is not that album. It is good, with brief flashes of something even better, but generally it falls just a little short. That said, if you’re a Wintersun fan, then by all means give it a listen because if you have a stronger disposition to that kind of music, then you may well enjoy the music of Atavistia more than I.

The Score of Much Metal: 66%

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XyEqmGDJnA&w=560&h=315]

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Astralborne – Eternity’s End
Centinex – Death In Pieces
Haken – Virus
Pile Of Priests – Pile Of Priests
Sorcerer – Lamenting Of The Innocent
Lesoir – Mosaic
Temnein – Tales: Of Humanity And Greed
Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant
…And Oceans – Cosmic World Mother
Vader – Solitude In Madness
Shrapnel – Palace For The Insane
Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way
Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews