~~“Let the Dark Light guide you and keep you eternally.
Black Metal is more than just Music.”
Atel is the moniker of a short-lived yet highly productive combo from Los Angeles, California. It was the project of someone who called himself Sandaramet, existing in the unholy years 2015 and 2016. After a couple of demos, Atel mainly collaborated on several split-releases, with same-minded sick-heads such as Bastard Of Majesty Sin (you’ll hear from them quite soon, I promise you), Orgy Of Carrion, Natanas (cult!), Cult Of Unholy Shadows or Syndrom Einsamkeit, amongst others. But there was (and still is) one full length album too, being Seeking Morbid Silence. That release was self-released the digital way, as well as on tape and CD, via Defiled Light and The Ritual Productions respectively. The CD-edition, and that’s the one I did receive by this great Dutch label, comes in an edition of 500 copies, by the way, and the six tracks last for about thirty-five minutes. Oh yes, before starting on the sonic side, first this: I like the (quite simple) artwork a lot (but that, of course, is totally subjective, and has no influence on whatever that will follow right now…).
Seeking Morbid Silence is the result of some unholy recording sessions, and it shows in both performance and sound. I’d first tell something about that sound quality. Actually, and you might know it in mean time, I do not mind a quality that stands far away from clinical decency. As a matter of fact, I like it the dirty way, for most kinds of Black Metal work the best when sounding grim, unpolished and rough. However – and I need to be honest – the quality of this recording might be too under-produced, I’m afraid. There is quite some background noise, unfortunately, and the performance lacks of highlights when it comes to specific instrumental details. It’s rather like a cheap mishmash without attention for detail. That’s a shame, a true shame, for it denigrates the final result. Okay, I won’t exaggerate, for actually the mix itself makes sure that all individual ingredients have their own right in appearance. You do hear the bass lines, the guitar leads, the drum parts, the voices, and eventually you experience the cohesive result. But to my opinion, and that means something, the result is way too dull, too muddy.
But when it comes to song writing and execution, I cannot but be much more positive. Atel bring an intensively morbid, grey, minimal and primal form of, often slow-paced and terrifying, Black Metal. It’s not exactly based on the Second Wave glory, nor is it based on the initial elements of the First Wave excellence. No, with this album (and all other recordings) Sandaramet and his main project do stand for a no-that-original yet, at the same time, quite specific and own-faced (once again I’m talking about a scarred face) form of cold, wretched Proto Black Metal. The speed balances in between quite slow and mid-tempo, with several faster outbursts, especially caused by the whirlwind drum salvos. There is a certain focus on melodious structures, for the dual guitar riffs are not just meant to destroy, yet rather to bewitch. All this gets sweetly supported by a nice rhythm section, including the drum patterns I just mentioned, and some fine bass and rhythm guitar sections. And the vocals, well, they are just like taken from a dictionary: barking, sulphuric, venomous and blood-spitting.
All by all, Seeking Morbid Silence could have been a monster-release, if only that sound quality was harsher, more powerful and balanced. Atel was not a project that was created to renew the scene (why should they anyway), but they surely paid tribute to the essence of the universal Black Metal core. So in all my personal essence of being an amiable human being, I want(ed) to give them the benefit of doubt – f*ck that inferior sound quality, and focus on the basics of quite well-thought elemental craftsmanship in song writing skills. But that production does influence my final score (for what it’s worth)…