Despite more than two years of age, it still is more than interesting to focus on Pretium, until now being the sole official full-length release by Russian / Belarussian act Atra Haeresis. On this recording, the band consists of Alexey Veselov aka Fenrir, whom you might know from Bestial Deform or Ethir Anduin (bass), as well as Sergei Ambrazevich (vocals) and Alexander Antygin (guitars). Drums and additional voices, as well as song-writing and lyrics, were done by other people. The whole thing got recorded, mixed and mastered at the Atra Anduin Studio, and it clocks about half an hour.
For the release, Atra Haeresis teamed up with Satanath Records. Co-releasing (digital and compact-disc) duties were taken care of by Kryrart Records and Death Portal Studio, as well as Void Wanderer Productions for a tape-edition. The CD-edition, by the way, is a jewel-case one that comes with an eight-page booklet. It includes the lyrics (in English; half of them written by some Artem Kovrigin, the other half by Legio Sergia’s Sergii ‘Proprius’ Krysenko). The explicitly confronting artwork was created by Vladimir ‘Waldmahr Smerdulak’ Chebakov, known from his visual artistry for other bands such as Pure Massacre, Rogatyye Trupoyedy, Dead Head or Katalepsy.
The band plays quite technical, intense, rhythmic and technical Melodic Black Metal with hints of Blackened Death Metal and Occult Black Metal. The better part varies from up-tempo over energetic to blasting fast (listen to the first moments of Man Through Epochs, for instance, and get immersed into some mardukian ebullition of devastating dynamics), with smooth transitions in between the different paces. A nice aspect is the input of slower passages at the one hand, and quite some dissonant aspects at the other. When talking about these discordances, I am referring to several chapters where the sound of the guitar-leads and the blasting drum salvos collide and amalgamate at the same time.
Some fragments exhale a sense of epicism, with victorious harmonies and pagan-laden melodies (and sometimes with inclusion of epic choir-chants or some throat-singing, cf. a piece like Vaunted Dyer). Another strong element is the introduction of admirable solos, modest in length and content, yet characteristic and remarkable for sure.
The overall sound-quality is dense and severe, surrounding the whole in a massive, burdensome globe of utter murk and gloom. Respect for the excellent production and mix, for that obscure and heavy-weighting sound comes with a professionally balanced proportionality of all voices and instruments involved. The intense parts, the slower ones, the rather down-earthed fragments or the more complex excerpts; in each case, the aural equilibration remains intact and reliable.
I do not know whether the band is working on new material. I know that Fenrir does release a new Ethir Anduin today (!) (an outfit for which I wrote three reviews in the past, by the way), yet when it comes to Atra Haeresis, I have no idea about what might be next to come. But I hope that this album, Pretium, was just the first one in a productive series yet to come…