California’s Atala release their second album, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent, this Friday, May 20. If the cover art looks familiar, it might be because the Billy Anderson-produced record has already been reviewed in this space, but the story basically goes that I got asked if I wanted to do the full-album stream as well, and the truth is there’s more to say about the progressive and atmospheric leap the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton (also a tattoo artist), bassist John Chavarria and drummer Jeff Tedtaotao make with these four songs, so yeah, I’m down.
As previously noted, it’s been just about a year since Atala made their self-titled debut (review here), and Shaman’s Path of the Serpent works not only as a forward step, but on a completely different scale, borrowing echoing atmospheric largesse from the likes of Deftones and driving it out to the desert with aggression in mind. Even upbeat stretches like the shuffle of second cut “Levity” retain an overarching air of threat, and from the beginning of 10-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Gravity,” its beginning guitar reminiscent of Tool, there’s a rolling doom lumber that feels tonally kin to Pallbearer but made much more Atala‘s own through Stratton‘s vocals and the interplay of varied atmospheres as the blown-out thrust of “King Solomon” and churning crush of “Shapeshifter” continue to build on what the band accomplishes with the first two tracks until all that’s left is noise.
Like I said, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent has already been reviewed, so I don’t want to retread, but consider this post an emphasis on how pivotal and how blazingly quick their growth has been. The first record operated in a straightforward heavy rock style, more barroom than darkened parking lot, and while tracks were constructed on a solid foundation of songwriting, there was little of the kind of scope that even “Gravity” brings at the open, let alone anything that follows. Its airier patience is something that comes with little foreshadow, and as “Shapeshifter” pulls itself apart at the end, there is nothing about that moment that isn’t Atala‘s own, and it puts one final exclamation point on how far the band has come with what’s still just their sophomore full-length.
Atala are on tour next month, headed east to play Maryland Doom Fest 2016 among other live dates. I was dying to know more about what was driving the progression on Shaman’s Path of the Serpent, so reached out to Stratton to get the scoop. You’ll find his comments, the tour dates and the album preorder link under the player below, on which you can stream the album in its entirety.
Kyle Stratton on working with Billy Anderson:
On this album, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent, we wanted to do something heavy in a spiritual sense. Lyrically, I was writing about transcending life through death to a spiritual rebirth. With the subject matter I wanted to express, we knew the vocals would be soft in order to evoke a trance-like state, so we wanted the music to come across as very dark and heavy to give the feeling of crossing over to the other side of existence. We choose Billy Anderson because he is an expert at capturing very heavy tones. After speaking with him through emails and getting his feedback on the demos, we knew he was the dude.
The recording process was amazing. Billy really came in with a good idea of what he wanted to do and we came in prepared. It was a mold. We recorded the whole album in four very long days. We worked 16 to 18 hour days, went to sleep then woke up and did it again. Billy even had ideas for vocal melodies and would play them on guitar so I could sing to them. He also laid some extra guitar tracks, and he did the monk chants on the end of the album. I feel he really brought a lot to the plate and we are very grateful to have such a great album because of it. Hopefully he will be on board for the next one.
Atala on tour:
06.18 Scottsdale AZ The Rogue Bar
06.19 Lubbock TX Depot Obar
06.21 St. Louis MO Fubar
06.22 Lakewood OH The Foundry
06.24 Frederick MD Maryland Doom Fest
06.27 Spartanburg SC Ground Zero
06.28 Birmingham AL The Nick
06.29 Fayetteville AR Nomad’s
06.30 Dallas TX Reno’s Chop Shop
07.01 El Paso TX Mesa Music Hall
07.02 Bisbee AZ The Quarry
07.03 Riverside CA PBW