Atoma – Behind Sleep and SpaceSunday, 31st March 2013
(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)
The delay behind Slumber’s long-awaited follow-up to 2004’s genius Fallout was simple and complex at the same time. Unable to work within the constraints of the sound they created on their debut, the Swedes waffled with their new material, putting out scattered press releases to assure people that indeed, a sophomore effort was forthcoming. Yet, for every bit as good as Fallout is (it’s incredibly good…and can be found on the cheap, too), there was a restrictive angle to it that confounded and frustrated its members. Rather than shuffle out an album that was a mere replication of its predecessor, Slumber did what a lot of bands wished they could have done: They changed their name and direction.
Atoma is the resultant, and based on their Skylight debut (Napalm Records), the creative legroom that is on hand should be able to overcome any type of creative boundaries. The album has the darkened melodic touch of Fallout, but is accompanied by luscious clean vocals and a orchestral touch that is pure atmospheric splendor. The album as a whole is intended as a journey, for its flanked by a concept regarding the desire to leave earth for outer space realms. It’s a sci-fi dark metal du jour.
As you’ll read below, there’s a lot for one to wrap their head around based on guitarist/main composer Ehsan Kalantar’s words about how all-encompassing Atoma’s concept is. Actually, it’s not terribly dissimilar to Immortal’s fictional Blashyrkh, only Atoma wants to go outer space, while Immortal wants winter to be a year-round event. Apples and oranges, right?
Blistering.com: To begin with the obvious: Why did Slumber dissolve?
Ehsan Kalantar: To pave the way for Atoma. We weren’t happy with the creative direction of Slumber and were searching for something new and unexplored. To us, Atoma was the home we were searching for. A kingdom of sound where anything is possible and we can let the music take us wherever it wants without cutting its wings.
Blistering.com: Do you have any regrets over not being able to follow-upFallout properly?
Kalantar: It’s not like we weren’t able, we just didn’t want to do follow-up without knowing exactly what we want. Generic repetition is something very frowned upon in our group, and somehow Slumber got locked in its death/doom format. There were no real grounds for innovation and challenging new ways for us so we moved on. I do however, sometimes regret that so many years had to pass for us to find Atoma.
Blistering.com: Was there a concern that you would never be able to progress beyond what you did with Fallout? That you had to stay inside the death/doom box?
Kalantar: Yeah this was a concern already during Fallout’s creation. The doom/death format we built didn’t give us the freedom to explore the universe of sound the way we wanted. Already after Fallout’s release we realized many of the songs we were writing, were more an exploitation of Slumber, rather than a genuine musical exploration like we wanted. That somehow we were forced to keep within one frame just to keep within the musical profile. That’s not what we’re about.
Blistering.com: What do you think Slumber’s lasting legacy will be?
Kalantar: I’m not sure. To me and the guys in the group, Slumber is not “dead” the way you see it. For us it’s just a name. Maybe the style has changed, but the core of Slumber’s music, I mean its way of melodies, and atmosphere and pain is still alive in everything we do. These are human traits that are deep inside. It goes beyond any name or label.
Blistering.com: Moving onto Atoma, what type of elements were you looking to incorporate into the band’s sound?
Kalantar: We wanted to explore music further and find new ways. To be able to create albums that freely flows in and out through many styles and formats, driven by atmosphere and melody as only laws. A kingdom of sound where only our imagination could set the limits, not an outside artificial genre or format.
Blistering.com: How did Christian Alvestam [ex-Scar Symmetry, Miseration] enter the picture? Any concerns about his status/resume getting in the way of what you want to accomplish?
Kalantar: We’ve had a long working relation with Thomas ‘Plec’ Johansson (ever since Fallout) who is our sound engineer for Atoma. Plec and Christian have been friends for a long time and played in the same band (Unmoored), so that’s how we got in touch as we were searching for a second guitarist. Not concerned about his resume, I’m more rather impressed that he finds time to engage in the large demanding world of Atoma at the same time he’s a busy bee working on his bands. Cheers to him.
Blistering.com: Do you feel that with Atoma, you’re able to start with a clean slate and be more productive than Slumber?
Kalantar: Definitely. It’s a universe of tunes in front of us waiting to be explored. Now we are able to release albums every two years, which is practically what we’ve been waiting for all our god damn lives. Now we can finally release the albums instead of envisioning them constantly in the head, almost reaching madness at many points.
Blistering.com: There are still some elements of Slumber in your sound, but you’re trying new things, especially clean vocals. What prompted you to include them?
Kalantar: Fallout was not only a creation, it was also a projection. A projection of who we are and how we view the world. That hasn’t changed much sinceFallout. We’re still miserable bastards pouring our hearts out in music, so yeah there’s a lot of Slumber still in the sound. Already at the recording of Fallout we were unhappy with the vocals. We wanted cleans but didn’t know how to do it. Now we’re learning.
Blistering.com: Skylight has a very thematic (and cinematic) feel to it. How were you able to tie in the storyline of astronauts looking for a new earth to inhabit?
Kalantar: The music was written with that in mind constantly. However we didn’t want a clear storyline in order not to take much focus from the actual music. We wanted something else. It was a thin line to thread, to create this feeling of epic story, but at the same time keeping it very abstract and dreamy.
Blistering.com: What inspired you to come up with this storyline? Are you big sci-fi fans?
Kalantar: We took our own situation and mirrored it into space. The alienation and feeling of disconnected we feel to this fast food calculative and corporate modern world we live in, made us into the astronauts we became. We began becoming obsessed with creating a vast world of Atoma as a refuge. We’re spending all our awake time in a haze exploring new ideas and trying to understand what this strange and mesmerizing phenomenon in our lives is.
Blistering.com: Your website has the tagline “Goodbye Planet Earth.” What does that entail?
Kalantar: A farewell to earth. Each makes their own interpretation of that phrase after listening to the album, but for us as the musical journey begins now, we wave goodbye to this planet and seek refuge in another better place. We’ve found Atoma and will spend the rest of our lives learning to realize its vision. Earth is soon no place for real humans anymore. It’s turning into a place for machines.
Blistering.com: What do you have planned in terms of live activity? What do you expect out of your live gigs?
Kalantar: We had an opening gig in Brasov, Romania. Now we’re preparing and rehearsing constantly for tour and gigs starting later this year. I want a very visual and colorful show, combined with projections of images and videos. The atmosphere of another world. We have a long way to go.
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on tap for the rest of 2012?
Kalantar: I’m deep in the zone of thoughts for the next album to the extent that everything else becomes a distant blur. I have a few moments of clarity like right now, and I can actually write an interview. We’re deep in the process of creating the frame for next album – a first rough sketch of the next album. We’re also as I said, rehearsing and preparing for tour and gigs in fall, other than that, right now it’s hard focus on the next album.