Desert-dwelling trio Atala release their new album, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent, on May 20. With the returning lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton, bassist John Chavarria and drummer Jeff Tedtaotao, it’s a 32-minute four-songer that might lead one to wonder just what happened to the band between their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and this second album, arriving about a year after they took the first record on the road. There is a stark difference in sound between the two releases, the prior outing having been produced by Scott Reeder and finding the trio exploring desert rock roots in a vaguely sludgy context, some harsher vocals worked in amid familiar rhythmic turns and driving heavy rock. Recorded in Oregon with Billy Anderson when they went on the aforementioned tour, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent is stylistically bolder and enacts a much larger sonic space, still capable of pushing into more caustic territory, as “King Solomon” shows, but more atmospheric on the whole, more patient and fluid. Perhaps with the first outing under their collective belt, they were able to gain a clearer picture of what they wanted their sound to do, or maybe Shaman’s Path of the Serpent will be a stylistic one-off. Either way, it’s a radical departure from where they were last year and, especially with the confidence they display throughout, one that suits them remarkably well.
Opener “Gravity” is the longest track on the album (immediate points) at 10 minutes flat, and it unfolds with echoing lines of prog-metal guitar, setting an ambient impression right away upon which the rest of the record continues to build. There’s a post-metallic element at play in the slow-rolling rhythm, but a vocal hook keeps the proceedings relatively grounded. A slowdown in the opener’s second half pushes into more cavernous fare, and they build back up to round out the track on a fittingly weighted note. Ultimately, “Levity” follows suit in its atmosphere, but between the blown-out vocals post-Electric Wizard and an Uncle Acid-style swinging riff, it does much to increase the album’s scope all the same, its post-midpoint cut in tempo leading to an open-spaced bridge and satisfying build topped by Stratton‘s echoing vocals, layered to rich effect. When they bring “Levity” back to its chorus, it gives a sense of structure to what seems to have long ago left that behind, and the percussive finish presages the heavier portions of “King Solomon” to come, which as the most abrasive stretches on Shaman’s Path of the Serpent, come across as driven more by Neurosis-style impulses than anything that’s come out of the desert in the last couple decades. This fervency comes offset by quieter, spacious parts, and where much of the long-player is geared toward a fluid overarching vibe, “King Solomon” feels more bent on basking in the contrast.
All the better to suit the scope of Shaman’s Path of the Serpent as a whole, which closer “Shapeshifter” continues to expand. In a way not entirely unlike the 10-minute “Sun Worship” from Atala, it finishes the outing with a particular fullness of sound, but from the warmth in Chavarria‘s bass to the push in the guitar tone that follows, it also emphasizes how far Atala have come in such a short time. There’s something foreboding lurking beneath “Shapeshifter”‘s early going, and it gradually comes forward so that by about five minutes in, the band are working at a slow crawl with far-back vocals to enact the biggest-sounding movement of the entire record. Unlike “Levity,” they make it pretty clear they’re not pulling this one back to any kind of hook once it’s gone, and for doing so, they make themselves even less adherent to a single methodology. Taken front to back, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent would seem to have been the result of a conscious shift in approach on the part of Atala, since, played next to their debut they’re barely recognizable as the same group. I won’t decry what they were able to accomplish last time out, but among the expectations I had for a follow-up, the kind of reach they show throughout these four tracks utterly surpasses them.
Please enjoy “Gravity” on the player below, followed by the dates and cities for Atala‘s upcoming tour, as well as the preorder link for Shaman’s Path of the Serpent.
ATALA’s Shaman’s Path of the Serpent encapsulates the raw and mature essence of the band today. The album is a journey through the mind of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton. Lord of Heaviness Billy Anderson (SLEEP, MELVINS, MASTODON) engineered the album, capturing the raw emotion and sonic heft that the band delivers in speaking to the listener. Shaman’s Path of the Serpent will leave the listener wondering if Stratton is lamenting the idea of death, reveling in the joy of its inevitability.
ATALA will embark on a U.S. tour in support of Shaman’s Path of the Serpent. Confirmed dates are below. Stay tuned for venue confirmations and additional dates!
ATALA on tour:
05.20 Bend, OR
05.21 Stockton, CA
06.18 Mesa, AZ
06.19 Albuquerque, NM
06.20 Oklahoma City, OK
06.21 St. Louis, MO
06.22 Pittsburgh, PA
06.24 Maryland Doom Fest, Frederick, MD
06.27 Charlotte, NC
06.28 Nashville, TN
06.30 Dallas, TX
07.01 El Paso, TX
07.02 Bisbee, AZ
07.03 Temecula, CA