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Where Wolves Once Dwelled (2014)

Atavisma are a French trio from Paris who formed in 2013, and Where Wolves Once Dwelled is their debut four-track, 20-minute demo. One thing is for sure, if you like fierce old school death metal then this is for you. All four tracks are served up with lashings of grim lustre in the style of old Entombed, Carnage and US death metallers Incantation.

The opening track, ‘The Savage One’, begins as a slow, stirring buzz-saw of gritty riffage and deep (and I mean deeeeeep) bellows, giving the impression of an almost wintry doom metal fuelled by a melancholic solo or two which filters through the silt. Although the track gradually quickens it still takes the form of a steady chainsaw splutter, but it’s one so effective that even with its clear influences it succeeds as a macabre death metal utterance.

‘Forsaken’ continues that ashen quality initially before rushing headlong into a blizzard of hurtling drums and stark, cold riffage. Again, I’m reminded of that classic Swedish whiff although vocally it’s still at the bottom-end of guttural expression, visiting those deep, dark trenches of gloom.

The title track comes next with its eerie, trickling introduction which suggests all manner of apparition are just around the corner, and then that familiar buzz comes lurching forward. It’s a sluggish fuzz of pallid complexity injected by a stark drum nod as Atavisma now skirt on the edges of Winter’s 1990 classic debut album Into Darkness, coughing up layers of ash and icy debris like some choking golem emerging from the freezing mists of doom. It’s in this grim mire where I prefer Atavisma because as soon as the combo speeds up it’s back to that rather generic, and most certainly over-done Swedish grind – but hats off to the band for marrying too dramatically intense styles.

Fortunately, the vocals are still embedded in some long forgotten musty cavern, and they are the real star of the horror show here, and long may the gurgling continue because by the time we’re drowning in the closing ‘Nature’s Warfare’, with its churning waters of doom, I am thankful that this isn’t a full-length opus.

While I enjoy this massive globule of slag, I have a horrible feeling that these guys may succumb to heavy criticism if they cannot implement something more than Swedish mimicry into a sound that benefits more from wading in slower, murkier tides. Where Wolves Once Dwelled is still muddy enough to make its own way in life, but Atavisma should beware of becoming the residue of a much-imitated, overused sound.

For those of you interested, the Where Wolves Once Dwelled demo is available here.

Neil Arnold

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