From the outset, there are two things to be said about Coma Noir. The first is that it’s an exceedingly likeable record. The second is that it is a rather hefty shake of the foundation on which The Atlas Moth have grounded themselves since the beginning of their career. There is a lot to soak in, a lot to think about, a lot for us to miss the first time around and so allow us to keep replaying. There is a revitalised sense of spirit in the band’s fourth full length album. The songs have a fiery swiftness which makes a surprising change to the consistently doomy pace they’ve maintained since their first 2009 record, A Glorified Piece Of Blue Sky. One may have delved deep into the world of The Atlas Moth before. But make no mistake, Coma Noir is a fresh beast.
Mood and tempo varies to keep us on our toes. It draws from a great deal of musical resources. There are segments that feel very metal, others a little more sludge, others metalcore. Though dissimilar in delivery, the band may have drawn inspiration from the same record collection as Mastodon. Structurally, Coma Noir has the same deftness in switching from one endeavor to the next as a Dillinger Escape Plan album. But the binding element is the continuous sense of ruggedness. The guitar tones are never too clean, nor are the vocals. The rhythm never settles into one pattern for too wide a stretch. The record doesn’t sleep. Natural harmonics run rampant. Voices holler at varying pitches.
Not even a minute in, and we hear this newfound lust for life. Title track Coma Noir is a superbly charged opener, effortlessly energetic and heavy. As already mentioned, you are treated to a number of different vocal styles across this new record, and the high pitched ones cover a seismic portion. It may come across as a little grating at first, depending on personal taste. But then, as if by magic, the vocals fits nice and snug with the rest of the band during the second track, “Last Transmission from the Late, Great Planet Earth”, by which the majority of ears will have nestled comfortably into the new, quicker workings of Coma Noir.
“Galactic Brain” is a sludgy workhorse, even reminiscent of an early Down song, and it features some intense harmonious squealing from voice and guitar alike. The next track, “The Streets of Bombay”, has a smooth, partially electronic intro, but then breaks into a fervent rock/sludge number with some nice lead guitar work. By the time we get to fifth track, “Actual Human Blood”, things have gotten a little more intense. The song is a stomping anthemic highlight, and is followed by “Smiling Knife”, which contains a greater concentration of the metalcore influence peppered throughout this album.
But the third act of Coma Noir is arguably the most engaging. “Furious Gold” is a kind of summary of the album’s best traits. It has some filthy bass, vocals right across the spectrum, some bone crunching palm mutes, and some wonderfully invigorating drum work. And this quality delivery of all things heavy and chiseled continues with “The Frozen Crown.” With full praise given to the rest of the album, this song is almost on another level. It is smooth, steady, and empowering; it’s one of those heavy tunes full of substance yet profoundly exhilarating at the same time. A sense of calmness finally ensues on the last track, “Chloroform.” Well… at least until the vocals come back into play. The song still maintains a subdued air following the pounding intent of the rest of the record, and makes for a triumphant sign off.
Only the most devout of The Atlas Moth fans can gauge if Coma Noir stands up alongside the previous proggier and marginally more melodic workings of 2011’s An Ache for the Distance, and 2014’s The Old Believer. But the change in tempo is a welcomed refresher, and there is no doubting the continuous zest this band retains within their music.
Notable Tracks: “Coma Noir”; “Actual Human Blood”; “The Frozen Crown”
FFO: Mastodon, Neurosis, Tombs