Atala - Labyrinth Of Ashmedai

Atala - Labyrinth Of Ashmedai

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(CD, Salt Of The Earth Records, 2017)

For whatever the reason(s), the Stoner / Sludge scene was quickly saturated with bands playing pretty much the same style over and over again. On one hand, this is (kind of) good since being die-hard fan of this sound, you have an abundance of new albums to choose from, but on the other, it inevitable guides this sound into stale waters with people, like myself, losing interest and missing some good bands in the process. To avoid this, you have to check bands that are willing to go beyond what’s considered norm for this genre, to rekindle your interest. California’s ATALA seem to be moving towards that direction, with “Labyrinth Of Ashmedai” being their third LP effort, so let’s see what they have in store.

First of all, I love the vinyl-friendly time duration of the LP which means that there are no fillers on the tracklist. Yes, at some point the bands (and most importantly, the record labels) have to understand that in music most of the time the more is not the merrier, and that back in the day, the time limitations of a vinyl release forced the bands to put only the best of the best, skipping all these fillers. Anyway, this is not the time nor the place to analyze this, so I’d better go back to the meat of this album presentation, with the haunting spoken intro of “Grains Of Sand” being the chills-down-your-spine way of introducing ATALA's hard-hitting Sludge. The vocals are borderline shouting but stay low on the mix with the focus on the distorted bass and the raw-sounding drums. Of course, the song is based upon a solid groove, while the main riff adds the word catchy in this otherwise swamp-y Sludger. Usually, Sludge records come with blurred productions that make them hard to digest from untrained to this genre people like me. But no, ATALA keep their sound clean from effects-overload, and because of this, you can definitely enjoy the basslines behind the guitars on “Tabernacle Of”. There is an evil atmosphere lurking around in this one, feeding from the Black Metal-esque guitar riffs as they assume the soloing role leaving the rhythm section to the bass and drums. By the way, I love when a trio band does not use a second guitar in the studio, and by doing this, capture the band’s live feeling. That evil element gets flesh and bones during the crushing “Death’s Dark Tomb” during which, ATALA go slow and massively heavier than before. Yeah, this is ‘Sludge 101’ with shouting vocals, screaming guitar riffs and rather complicated (for this genre) drumming which I think may give ATALA the 'Progressive' badge. “Infernal” is cut from the same cloth, entering the BLACK SABBATH trippy universe with the effects and the nice bass lines in the intro before bringing back the guitar distortion to build up another crushing rhythm section. The vocals sound cleaner as compared to the previous songs and for this, “Infernal” is catchier but without abandoning the heavy Sludge profile and this is what I was talking about pushing beyond the norms.

ATALA have produced a great piece of Sludge with some Stoner intentions and with some interesting ideas that reside outside the comfort zone of this music style. So, “Labyrinth Of Ashmedai” should not appeal only to the adepts of this sound but rather pique the interest of a broader Metal audience; check ‘em out.





01. Grains Of Sand
02. Tabernacle Of
03. Death’s Dark Tomb
04. I Am Legion
05. Wilted Leaf
06. Infernal


Kyle Stratton - Vocals, Guitar
Jeff Tedtaotao - Drums
Dave Horn - Bass