Atragon are a 5-piece, Scottish, doom machine. Their 2 track ‘Volume 1’ EP showcases their love of all things sludge, fuzz and stoner and clocks in at a massive 25 minutes; that’s an awful lot of doom for 2 tracks. Atragon’s sound is immensely thick with a pounding rhythm, a huge, low-end, bass rumble and some funky leads that will appeal to fans of Slabdragger, Limb and Dopefight.
The EP kicks off with ‘The Sound in the Halls’ which plods along relatively slowly with its’ massive, drawn-out riffs and yelled vocals. Unfortunately the song doesn’t do enough to warrant its’ 10 minute length; the pace stays the same throughout and the riffs get a bit lost amongst all that distortion and don’t really sound like they’re doing much. It’s a slow and disappointing start.
Fortunately ‘Jesus Wept’ does a lot more to hold our attention. The pace speeds up dramatically and vocalist Jan Gardner gets to flex his pipes. There’s some great sung parts in this song that gives it a cool, desert-rock edge (think Kyuss). At 14 minutes long ‘Jesus Wept’ also features a great middle eight where the song slows down again to build up to a dramatic crescendo. This brings back the huge, galloping riff from the beginning of the song. It’s a brilliant track and shows Atragon at their best. If the band continue to make their metal in this way then they’re onto a winning combination of doom metal and desert-rock groove.
The EP’s production is adequate at best. This is very simply a vocalist, 2 guitarists, a bassist and a drummer jamming to some sludge. It’s purely functional and there’s no bells and whistles to distinguish this from a simple live recording. However, the mix is exceptional. Each instrument is instantly recognisable and the distortion doesn’t mask the bass which is an all-too-common sin amongst doom metal. The vocals could’ve used a bit of amplification but otherwise everything is clear and you get to appreciate the instrumentation on show.
Atragon are a funny one; they’re clearly aiming for a massive doom metal sound but can get a bit bogged down with repeated riffs and not enough experimentation. When the band do throw a curve-ball into the mix they unearth some truly engaging metal, but until they learn to keep this up they’re going to suffer being a band that people walk out on so they can get a drink.
Atragon’s ‘Volume 1’ is available to pre-order now from Witch Hunter Records. The EP drops on 14/12/12