Atlantis is the solo recording and six-piece live project of Gilson Heitinga and his latest release “Omens” is a bleak, heavy affair with six tracks of varying length, all of them intense and engaging, and built on a solid foundation of riffs and a steady drum beat. The record is packed with a variety of good ideas and sounds, and the delivery is absorbing and rich, yet comes across as uncluttered.
There’s elements of metal, industrial, stoner, electronica, ambient, post-rock and sludge with influences from the likes of NIN, Pink Floyd and Neurosis without sounding like those influences. These are songs that trudge, march or slide their way through a lot of violence, pain, suffering, darkness, evil and despair, but it’s all oh so clinical and measured. This isn’t so crude as to attack you with a meat axe, this is a bone-cutting surgical saw, a scalpel and a high-speed drill.
There’s a fragile line between this type of music feeling heavy, intense and minimalist, and it falling into pit of oversimplicity and lifelessness. It’s a cliff face Heitinga has walked near on previous albums but not this close and he does it with great success. This is due in large part to the stark contrast between those sections with heavy riffing and those without, where other sounds – in some cases voice – take the lead, and the fact that those other sounds vary so much. On the matter of voice, it’s used very much as another instrument where the tone, timbre, emotion and sound is more important than the recognition or meaning of any words, and to my mind it’s an instrumental record.
It is one of those records that requires the right mood to work at its best, particularly where drums are concerned in a couple of tracks. Heitinga had recorded the album with synth drums but replaced them with the real thing in a last minute decision, but often we get long passages with a dead, thudding feel and very little in the way of anything other than strict time-keeping. It does enhance the cold industrial elements in the style but it’s a bit forward in the mix and can become annoying in ‘And She Drops The 7th Veil’ and ‘Rapture’.
‘…7th Veil’ can also feel too long with too many parts, but let’s put all that aside and focus on when you are in the right headspace, because that’s where this record earns its place in my end of year list. A couple of places where the drums work really well are in the heartbeat to ‘The Path Into’, one of the shorter tracks, and in the third of the longer tracks, ‘Widowmaker’ where they get an opportunity to open up. ‘Widowmaker’ is the most free-flowing and diverse track on the record, oozing with sexuality and ambiguous in its level of violence, starting off at a gallop before climaxing and easing out with loads of cool.
Not having heard the band live I don’t know how well the album achieves its aim of bringing that raw live sound out, but I can say each record gets better than the last and in a year of post-metal/experimental dominated by Deafheaven, Russian Circles and Teeth of the Sea, it holds its own.