Whereas many feared the departure of founding guitarist Nick Orlando would irreparably hobble aging funeral doom monolith Evoken, 2012's Atra Mors shows that potential adversity has instead galvanized New Jersey's finest of the darkest to a resurgence of sorts. Funny how the worm turns -- no, the band may never equal previously erected pillars of the genre such as 2005's Antithesis of Light, but then Atra Mors‘ victory is in not attempting to. Rather, it pushes open the forbidding iron gates that have long guarded this musical mausoleum just enough to let a little more light penetrate and illuminate formerly concealed features.
Heavy metal is a genre spilling over with gripping fantastical escapades, but the most resonant metal narrates tales that aren’t imaginary at all. Instead, it speaks directly of the painful emotional experiences we all share; metal has never shied away from summoning up grief-stricken scenes or spectrums of sorrow. Bands such as Mournful Congregation, Winter, and Finnish funeral doom pioneers Thergothon and Skepticism have demoralized the hardiest souls, but few bands have conveyed loss with such gut-wrenching tenor as Evoken.
Only a fool would ever call an album by New Jersey doom legends Evoken casual. Each of the band's five full-lengths-- including their first in five years, the enormous and exhausting Atra Mors-- trudges well beyond the hour mark, slowly pushing its respective way toward the limits of a compact disc or a two-LP set. But long albums alone don't make for notable ones; rather, Evoken pair that love of length with a near-militaristic obsession with volume, mass, and deliberate movement.
Evoken have deep, dismal roots in American doom metal. Hailing from Lyndhurst, NJ, they've been churning out lush, deep and textured doom since 2003. Their fifth full-length, Atra Mors, comes after a long period of silence; it's their first offering in five years. Perhaps that time had an effect on the songwriting and narrative, because Atra Mors is defined by an intense and poisonous pressure, like a powerful pocket of magma that can only escape, molten and oozing, from a crack in the Earth's crust at the painful pace of liquid rock.