Atlas Pain – What the Oak Left (Scarlet Records)

Monday, 20th March 2017
Rating: 8/10

Gaining access to newer bands across the metal landscape pleases this scribe to no end – always digging deep to not only focus on output from veteran artists, but unearthing the latest groups from all parts of the world. Arriving on the scene in 2013, Atlas Pain hail from Italy with a self-titled demo and Behind the Front Page EP to their credit in subsequent years – setting the stage for signing to Scarlet to release their first full-length record What the Oak Left. After a few spins, there’s an intriguing crossover blend of styles from folk to epic and extreme metal throughout this material sure to attract a diverse following who appreciate multi-layered dynamics on all fronts often within the same song.

Straddling the lines of folk/extreme metal with pagan and symphonic elements, the keyboard arrangements take on this grandiose meets flowery texture – one minute cinematic and the next very much encouraging jig dancing, as “Bloodstained Sun” and “The Counter Dance” showcase. The guitar playing shifts between almost death/black metal speed one moment, then can be very upbeat and pagan the next – giving off a Finntroll or Ensiferum vibe, the type of hooks that elicit massive unison chants or hum-a-long action. The mid-tempo oriented “Annwn’s Gate” or dramatic flourishes within “To the Moon” work best in that regard – opening up a variety of growls, screams and clean action for guitarist/ keyboardist Samuele Faullisi to ride over the top. Alert to not keep everything in similar tempos, the dramatic “Till the Dawn Comes” starts off and returns towards the conclusion with quieter, almost ballad-oriented piano parts before jumpy guitars and circus-themed keyboard work against faint ‘hey’ chants and Children of Bodom-ish sandpaper verses throw your headspace for quite the loopy ride. And you can never go wrong taking a tip from the party angle that Alestorm have rode to the hearts of folk/pirate metal fans as “The Storm” keeps the guitar/keyboard syncopation charge on high, along with a beer stein preferred chorus.

There’s a reason why Paganfest did so well for so long – folk metal and epic/extreme artists can keep the energy buzzing, plus the followers singing, clapping, chanting, and moving along. Atlas Pain are on the right track and it will be interesting to see where things develop, as What the Oak Left gets the job done if you love electric styled folk/epic metal with extreme yet discernible melodies.

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