Athemon – Athemon – Album Review

Artist: Athemon

Album Title: Athemon

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 11 October 2021

When the opportunity arises to hear a new progressive metal venture that features the talents of Tom MacLean, I will jump at the chance. And that’s what I have done here, even if it means listening via the free stream on the band’s Bandcamp page. I won’t pay for Spotify for two reasons: firstly, it doesn’t fairly reward artists, and secondly, the founder Daniel Ek is a fan of that football team from Woolwich. There’s really no recovering from that kind of double strike as far as I’m concerned. In the fullness of time, I’ll make a purchase, but having understood there are a few delays on a physical CD pressing, Bandcamp is my only current option.

Anyway, back to Athemon, for that’s the name given to the new entity brought to life by ex-To-Mera & Haken musician Tom MacLean and Brazilian Adriano Ribeiro. Tom plays the bass and has produced this self-titled album, whilst Adriano handles the guitars and the vocals. Essentially just a duo, they have been joined by drummer Gledson Gonçalves as a special guest. According to the information on their Bandcamp page, the aim of Athemon is to “forge the perfect alloy of darkness and beauty”; it’s a noble and admirable aim and certainly caught my attention, as did the striking cover artwork that’s a clever visual representation of their musical aims.

I know very little about Adriano Ribeiro as an artist, but I know all about Tom MacLean, and his prodigious musical talents. It comes as no surprise then, to listen to ‘Athemon’, and discover that the performances from the duo, and guest Gonçalves, are out of the top drawer. I’d expect nothing different, frankly. It means that the record has a slick professionalism about it; an air of undeniable quality, which only serves to increase the enjoyment that is derived on each listen. It’s also a concept album, dealing with the ideas of self-awareness and taking care of your emotional state. As such, the duo want you to think of ‘Athemon’ as a 50-minute suite, divided into nine individual tracks.

I’ll issue a word of caution at this juncture, because ‘Athemon’ has not been the easiest of albums to get into. It’s a dark, dense, often claustrophobic affair that appears reticent to let anyone into the inner sanctum that’s their musical vision. I’ve had to really persevere, but with the effort, I have now been rewarded. As much as I’d want it to be, ‘Athemon’ is not the perfect album though, for it has some quirks that will either work in your favour or against, depending on your personal tastes.

Firstly, for all the talk of ‘beauty’, there’s a lot less overt melody than perhaps I was hoping at the outset. Listen carefully, and don’t give up on the first or indeed the fifth spin, because there is melody to be discovered. However, it’s often subtle and hidden within the cloak of darkness and oppression that permeates the Athemon sound throughout. Then there’s Adriano Ribeiro’s vocals themselves. Ribeiro is in no way a bad singer, but his style and delivery is relatively unique and won’t be to everyone’s taste. Indeed, it was yet another ingredient on this debut album that had me working hard initially.

The opening heavily distorted, almost discordant guitar notes that signal the beginning of the album via ‘Perception’ are a portent of things to come, as it’s a dark and foreboding instrumental opening. As the song gathers pace, the bass of MacLean comes through loud and clear, an ominous, deep rumble that sits at the heart of the song alongside chugging riffs, mournful leads that make this sound like it could be part prog, part doom metal.

The extreme metal battery that greets us at the beginning of ‘Whispers’ is striking, but is tempered slightly by a more playful bass, whilst Ribeiro lays down some thick riffs. When his vocals finally emerge, they are tentative, whispered, with only a dancing bass for company before drummer Gledson Gonçalves joins in for good measure. Eventually, Ribeiro lets loose with his full vocal repertoire, his deep crooning delivery accenting the first really strong melody nicely, making more sense with several repeated listens under my belt. The occasional growl adds another dimension to the music, underlining the fact that this is arguably extreme metal first, and prog second.

I have grown rather fond of ‘The Glass Hindered Us’, thanks to some subtle melodies that do creep into your subconscious after a while. Again, the dense, cloying heaviness is at the forefront but, just like the song before, it is tempered by reductions in pace and intensity, creating a nice flow and an increased sense of drama as well. The drama continues with ‘Different From What Was Missing’, a composition that benefits greatly from lashings of atmosphere, demonstrating that this is eminently possible without layers of synths and electronics. All three members bring their ‘A’ game with them here and the feeling of pensive gloom is dovetailed with just enough beauty to make it a stand-out track for me.

‘Seed Of Change’ has a demonstrable death metal feel to it in places, thanks to chunky riffing that works in tandem with uncompromising blast beats. However, the track also showcases some of the most ‘progressive’ ideas on the record, with complexity at every turn and Ribeiro almost resorting to talking rather than singing to further test the boundaries. By contrast, ‘I Voice Of Mine’ is a much more immediate track, with great instrumentation all round, and some much more pronounced melody. In fact, this track and it’s immediate successor, ‘Reaching Deepness’ are two of the tracks that actually demonstrate the ‘beauty’ side of Athemon in a more pronounced way. I really like both and should the band return for a second album, I’d very much like to hear more of this side of the band.

That said, Athemon’s finest hour arguably occurs right at the end, in the form of ‘Birth’. The churning groovy riff that emerges early on is wonderfully addictive, but the song evolves wonderfully, incorporating the odd solo, as well as the strongest melody that’s made even more rousing thanks to the inclusion of some orchestration and intriguing electronic sounds. It’s a fabulous way to end the album, a debut album that holds a great deal of promise for the future. On this showing, I sincerely hope that Athemon stick around for a while because album number two could be even better. If you’re a fan of dark, heavy, and oppressive progressive metal, then you could do an awful lot worse than give ‘Athemon’ a listen.

The Score of Much Metal: 88%

Further reviews from 2021:

Cynic – Ascension Codes

TDW – Fountains

Hypocrisy – Worship

W.E.B. – Colosseum

Navian – Cosmos

NorthTale – Eternal Flame

Obscura – A Valediction

Nightland – The Great Nothing

MØL – Diorama

Be’lakor – Coherence

Hollow – Tower

Doedsvangr – Serpents Ov Old

Athemon – Athemon

Eclipse – Wired

Swallow The Sun – Moonflowers

Dream Theater – A View From The Top Of The World

Nestor – Kids In A Ghost Town

Beast In Black – Dark Connection

Thulcandra – A Dying Wish

Omnium Gatherum – Origin

Insomnium – Argent Moon EP

Kryptan – Kryptan EP

Archspire – Bleed The Future

Awake By Design – Unfaded EP

Cradle Of Filth – Existence Is Futile

Seven Spires – Gods Of Debauchery

Sleep Token – This Place Will Become Your Tomb

Necrofier – Prophecies Of Eternal Darkness

Ex Deo – The Thirteen Years Of Nero

Carcass – Torn Arteries

Aeon Zen – Transversal

Enslaved – Caravans To The Outer Worlds

A Dying Planet – When The Skies Are Grey

Leprous – Aphelion

Night Crowned – Hädanfärd

Brainstorm – Wall Of Skulls

At The Gates – The Nightmare Of Being

Rivers Of Nihil – The Work

Fractal Universe – The Impassable Horizon

Darkthrone – Eternal Hails

Thy Catafalque – Vadak

Terra Odium – Ne Plus Ultra

Hiraes – Solitary

Eye Of Purgatory – The Lighthouse

Crowne – Kings In The North

Desaster – Churches Without Saints

Helloween – Helloween

Fear Factory – Aggression Continuum

Wooden Veins – In Finitude

Plaguestorm – Purifying Fire

Drift Into Black – Patterns Of Light

Alluvial – Sarcoma

White Moth Black Butterfly – The Cost Of Dreaming – Album Review

Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen

Bloodbound – Creatures From The Dark Realm

Nahaya – Vital Alchemy

Frost* – Day And Age

Obsolete Theory – Downfall

Vola – Witness

Acolyte – Entropy

Dordeduh – Har

Subterranean Masquerade – Mountain Fever

Seth – La Morsure Du Christ

The Circle – Metamorphosis

Nordjevel – Fenriir

Vreid – Wild North West

Temtris – Ritual Warfare

Astrakhan – A Slow Ride Towards Death

Akiavel – Vae Victis

Gojira – Fortitude

Hideous Divinity – LV-426

Benthos – II

Evile – Hell Unleashed

Ninkharsag – The Dread March Of Solemn Gods

Bodom After Midnight – Paint The Sky With Blood

Morrigu – In Turbulence

Mother Of All – Age Of The Solipsist

Throne – Pestilent Dawn

Sweet Oblivion (Geoff Tate) – Relentless

Exanimis – Marionnettiste

Dvne – Etemen Ænka

Cannibal Corpse – Violence Unimagined

Arion – Vultures Die Alone

Maestitium – Tale Of The Endless

Wode – Burn In Many Mirrors

Everdawn – Cleopatra

Unflesh – Inhumation

Mourning Dawn – Dead End Euphoria

Wheel – Resident Human

Wythersake – Antiquity

Odd Dimension – The Blue Dawn

Metalite – A Virtual World

Cryptosis – Bionic Swarm

Ghosts Of Atlantis – 3.6.2.4

Memoriam – To The End

Aversed – Impermanent

Secret Sphere – Lifeblood

Enforced – Kill Grid

Liquid Tension Experiment – LTE3

Turbulence – Frontal

Iotunn – Access All Worlds

Warrior Path – The Mad King

Stortregn – Impermanence

Mariana’s Rest – Fata Morgana

Orden Ogan – Final Days

Witherfall – Curse Of Autumn

Plague Weaver – Ascendant Blasphemy

Ephemerald – Between The Glimpses Of Hope

Paranorm – Empyrean

Einherjer – North Star

Epica – Omega

Humanity’s Last Breath – Välde

Simulacrum – Genesis

Forhist – Forhist

Evergrey – Escape Of The Phoenix

Empyrium – Über den Sternen

Moonspell – Hermitage

Infernalizer – The Ugly Truth

Temperance – Melodies Of Green And Blue EP

Malice Divine – Malice Divine

Revulsion – Revulsion

Demon King – The Final Tyranny EP

Dragony – Viribus Unitis

Soen – Imperial

Angelus Apatrida – Angelus Apatrida

Oceana – The Pattern

Therion – Leviathan

Tribulation – Where The Gloom Becomes Sound

Asphyx – Necroceros

W.E.T. – Retransmission

Labyrinth – Welcome To The Absurd Circus

TDW – The Days The Clock Stopped

Need – Norchestrion: A Song For The End

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

2020 reviews

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

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