Artist: Ghosts Of Atlantis
Album Title: 126.96.36.199
Label: Black Lion Records
Date of Release: 26 March 2021
There be witchcraft around these parts, that’s for sure. I wasn’t happy with my first draft of my review for Ghosts Of Atlantis so, somehow, it disappeared. Gone. Vanished. Being a Suffolk boy born and bred, I know all about the dark underbelly of my otherwise beautiful, relaxed home county, so I put the laptop malfunction down to some kind of macabre magic, and started again.
But why all the talk of witchcraft and Suffolk? It’s because Ghosts Of Atlantis call Suffolk their home, just like it’s also the home of Cradle Of Filth and Devilment as well. In fact, given the relatively sparse population of such a rural location, it is almost inevitable to learn that there are strong links between Ghosts Of Atlantis and Devilment in particular. And those links are in the form of guitarist and vocalist Colin Parks, who is also the guitarist in Devilment. But, dare I say it, this new venture is even better.
Actually, dare I say it, but this is turning into one of the best and most exciting listening experiences of 2021 so far.
Alongside vocalist Phil Primmer, guitarist Dex Jezierski, bassist Al Todd and drummer Rob Garner , Parks is part of a brand new venture that is as intriguing as it is exhilarating. The debut album is entitled ‘188.8.131.52’ and for forty all-too-short minutes, we’re taken on a thoroughly engrossing journey into Greek lore and the lost city of Atlantis, across eight distinct compositions.
It is not the easiest music to describe either, which has to be to the band’s credit. The quintet refers to their music as symphonic metal, but that’s a vast over-simplification, because there is so much going on within this album. At times, I’m reminded of the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse or Ex Dio, as the material is properly brutal. At others, the inevitable Cradle or Devilment influences loom large, thanks to the properly grandiose and opulent soundscapes that are created, full of drama, flair, and also a dash of Gothic grandiosity. Hints of black, power, and dark also make their presence known, for Ghosts Of Atlantis are not seemingly content without exploring a myriad of sounds, textures, and atmospheres.
For me though, above all else, it is the exquisite juxtaposition between extremity and beauty that makes ‘184.108.40.206’ such a thrill to listen to. For all those sharp riffs, gruff vocals and pummelling drumbeats, you also get clean vocals, melodies, and hooks that are simply sublime, soaring out of the darkness with grace and elegance to caress the ears. Too much hyperbole? You’d think so, wouldn’t you, but it is honestly and genuinely deserved.
For far too long now, I’ve been criticising bands for recording albums that are way too long and in need of a damn good edit. Not here. In fact, if I were to find any fault with ‘220.127.116.11’, it’s that it feels a little short. You press play and, in the blink of an eye, it’s all over. Or at least that’s how it feels to me. I’d have loved another song. But then, what I admire about this album is that there are no intro or outro tracks, no instrumental interludes; all of the drama and suspense is contained within the main songs themselves.
Speaking of songs, shall we dive in, in true Medieval witch-dunking style? We’ll either die, or survive only to be burned at the stake. But believe me, this fate is worth it for the experience that ‘18.104.22.168’ delivers.
But where to begin, because all eight songs are deserving of attention? When in doubt, start at the beginning and this means we’re faced with ‘The Third Pillar’ which opens with an opulent and dark cinematic intro. It quickly explodes and in so doing, I’m immediately taken by the bursts of blastbeats and heavy riffing, the kind of delivery that loosely reminds me of ‘Kings Of The Carnival Creation’ by Dimmu Borgir. The savagery of vocalist Phil Primmer is genuine, whilst the symphonics add drama and depth to the proceedings. And then in comes the chorus. Featuring fast-picked, black metal-esque lead guitar work and the clean vocals of Parks, it’s a flamboyant but catchy, melodic affair that I immediately love, adding another dimension to the already excellent composition.
Anyone thinking that the opening salvo is a flash in the pan is quickly taught a lesson as a frenetic ‘Halls Of Lemuria’ continues the high trajectory of travel for Ghost Of Atlantis. The chorus that bursts from the measured tumult is a more sprawling affair than its predecessor, allowing the more melodic side of the band to take flight. But it remains a devastatingly heavy affair with chunky riffs, oppressive atmosphere, and tight, precise, brutal drumming.
Strong Gothic, black metal elements drive the early stages of ‘False Prophet’ thanks to the brisk pace and sharp, cold riffing whilst the remainder of the song makes superb use of light and shade, with calmer parts interjected to build intensity and counterpoint the extreme metal framework.
There’s no other word for it, ‘The Curse Of Man’ is anthemic. The most melodic of all eight tracks, it is also my favourite currently without doubt. Bursts of frenetic pace mean that Ghosts Of Atlantis don’t abandon their more extreme tendencies but the chorus is a thing of real dark beauty. Lush melodies, driven by a duo of vocals and elegant lead guitar notes are enhanced by clever symphonics and short bursts of drum blasts, a combination that I find irresistible. The juxtaposition between the savage and the beauty is not dissimilar to Cradle at their very best and it’s an intoxicating recipe from which I simply cannot escape. It’s a stunning track, one of the best that the year has delivered to date.
That being said, ‘When Tridents Fail’ isn’t far off either. Unlike the tridents about which they sing here, these guys do not seem capable of failure when it comes to the marriage between heavy, extreme metal and elegant, sophisticated melody. This song is yet another masterclass that offers us the crunch of death metal, the majesty of Gothic, symphonic metal, the venom and speed of black metal and the warmth of well thought-out and perfectly-executed melody.
‘Poseidon’s Bow’ is a quick romp that dials up the aggression, dials down the melody slightly but thanks to stellar performances across the board, it hits home brilliantly. ‘Gardens Of Athena’ indulges in one of the longer symphonic intros on the album, all beauty and intrigue. But it’s blown away by uncompromising riffs, bold bass work, and relentless drumming, all delivered at a satisfying pace. There are moments of calm just past the midway point, where whimsical melody and clean vocals add a slight folk element to proceedings. However, as it develops, it gets subtly more ominous before being cast aside for a final blast to the end, complete with one last reprise of the chorus that grows stronger the more you listen.
The final song on ‘22.214.171.124’ is ‘The Lost Compass’ and it’s a fitting end to an album that has, once again, ripped by in a whirlwind of intense satisfaction on my part. There’s a vaguely more upbeat tone within the expansive and extended chorus that sits at the heart of a composition that’s arguably the most over-the-top in terms of the way that it flits from one thing to another with ease. Quiet moments mix well with all-out bludgeoning attack, whilst the narrative is played out to a conclusion, Parks delivering some of his most accomplished vocals in the process. The piano-led outro is a lovely touch, albeit tinged with sadness as it signals the end of the album.
And what an album ‘126.96.36.199’ is. And it is made all the more special because I simply wasn’t expecting it. Ghosts Of Atlantis were not even close to being on my radar until the promo invitation dropped into my inbox. But now, I can safely say that this has been one of the biggest highpoints of the musical year so far. So, if like me, you’re a sucker for melodically-charged extreme metal with drama, depth, and real heart, ‘188.8.131.52’ by Ghosts Of Atlantis has to be your very next purchase. And if these guys play a show in my sleepy hometown once the restrictions are lifted, I’ll see you down the front.
The Score of Much Metal: 95%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: