Formed just a few short years ago, Belgium progressive metal band Atmospheres have risen in popularity faster than most. After playing several music festivals and other miscellaneous tours, they returned to the studio to release their sophomore album “The Departure” a few months ago. Thanks to Viral Propaganda, I’ve been able to listen to this breathtaking album, one that would surely land on my Top 20 of 2015 list had I known. It is indeed a departure from your typical progressive metal, focusing on minimalist, ambient textures, with occasional djent guitar rhythms and entirely clean vocals. What the band has created is a pleasant musical atmosphere that will launch its listeners into outer space.
If the song titles didn’t give it away already, one will have an “ah ha!” moment when learning “The Departure” follows a concept based on leaving the earth in search for a habitable planet. From the opening track “Sun,” we accompany the band on an emotional journey away from everything we love, complete with conversations between astronauts and NASA in several of the songs’ backgrounds. I especially enjoyed the opening drum fill that sets the scene for the remaining instruments. As we are treated with airy, layered synthesizers, turbulence interferes with the album’s dominant bass presence. The following track “The Farthest Star” is a prime example of the power behind the bass rhythms and down-tuned guitar chords. Most of the album shifts between a deep, guttural sound with light, buoyant soundscapes.
Every track fits nicely into one cohesive package, perfectly demonstrating the trials one would experience drifting through the voids of space. The instrumental passages like “Void” and “Laniakea” work as ambient interludes to further the story, but are also strong tracks on their own. The clean guitar arrangement in the prior is serene like a somber movie soundtrack, which I’d recommend listening with your eyes closed. It is because of the album’s superior sound quality that intensifies these moments, as I feel the same experience wouldn’t be felt with weaker audio quality. These tracks really are some of the more under-rated moments on the album, reminiscent of the lighter moments in any The Contortionist album. Overall, “The Departure” does a very good job complementing heavy instrumental arrangements with moments of tranquility.
The track “Satellite” comes across as the album’s single, with a standout performance by all members involved. Utilizing some of the same sound effects and arrangements from previous songs, “Satellite” is a culmination of not only all that went into this journey from Earth, but of all Atmospheres put into this album. Reminiscent of bands like TesseracT and Oceansize, the listener can feel the intensity of the vocals and guitar in the song’s chorus, being one of my favorite moments on the album. The self-titled track, on the other hand, relies on the heavy commotion of fast-paced chords and time-signature changing drum beats, a traditional djent song in every sense.
The final three tracks drift a little from the djent sound introduces in the first half. Reminding me somewhat of post-hardcore act The Receiving End of Sirens, the second to last track “The Arrival” nonetheless delivers a memorable lead guitar performance in the song’s verse. The bottom falls out in the song’s bridge, showcasing low-fi improvisation and astronaut discussions to set the mood of an arrival on a strange planet. The album concludes with “Vapor Trail,” another low-fi passage with chaotic sound effects and the same drum fill as the opening track. Being my only complaint about the album, it’s a little unclear and anti-climatic considering the journey Atmospheres took you through over the course of an entire album. To shame the last minute on a forty five minute album seems unnecessary, though, so I’ll refrain from ruining your listening experience. I will say, though, that “The Departure” feels shorter than it does despite the respectable album length.
A concept album about space travel, the music behind Atmospheres’ “The Departure” is perfectly fitting, painting a vivid picture of a rocket traveling through the nothingness of space. All it takes is closed eyes and a little imagination, and the listener can touch the stars. This album is something special, a recommendation for anyone who’s library is filled with atmospheric and progressive metal. I’ll go as far as calling this album “djentle” (patent pending), a great mix of soothing skies and rock hard bottoms. Please support Atmospheres by purchasing this album through their Bandcamp page, or by following them on Facebook for band updates.