Atala, The Bearer of Light: Burn in the Raw

Posted in Reviews on June 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

atala the bearer of light

The Bearer of Light is Atala‘s fourth full-length. Issued by Salt of the Earth Records, it follows 2017’s Labyrinth of Ashmedai (review here), 2016’s Shaman’s Path of the Serpent (review here) and a 2015 self-titled debut (review here), and while its predecessor seemed to follow a pattern set forth by the second album, in style as well as method, The Bearer of Light‘s seven-track/43-minute run is marked by a few notable changes. The production is a big one. The self-titled was produced by Scott Reeder, and the next two by Billy frickin’ Anderson, so the fact that guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton (who also did the cover art) took the reins himself this time around with a purposeful intent toward rawness is not to be overlooked. Indeed, The Bearer of Light is largely cloaked in its barebones recording, with Stratton‘s distorted guitar leading the charge cut through by Jeff Tedtaotao‘s sometimes-tinny snare and the dirt-coated low-end in Dave Horn‘s bass.

There’s still some opportunity for melody to shine through, as happens on the 3:45 side B cut and shortest track overall, “Venomous Lure” — also one of several songs to begin with a spoken sample, very much in ’90s sludge fashion — or even opener “Desolate Lands,” but much of the character of the record overall derives from movements like “Upon the Altar” and the threat-conveyance in “Won’t Subside,” which stretches to 11 minutes and layers its vocals in blown-out shouts over a lumbering, grueling central riff, like if earliest YOB had disappeared in the Mojave and come back hallucinating monsters from the exposure. Born of and depicting a harsh but beautiful landscape, the Twentynine Palms, California-based three piece indeed still qualify as a “desert band,” but their take on what that means is a noted departure from the laid-back punk-derived fuzz that has become typical of desert rock as a genre. Their trip is meaner on the whole, and particularly in the crashes of “Naive Demur” and the gutturalism of “Upon the Altar” is more kin to Crowbar than Kyuss. So be it. Some bands are suited to being contrary, and Atala hit that mark well on The Bearer of Light.

Though also structured for vinyl — kind of a given these days for heavy music — one can find summary of the point of view through which The Bearer of Light is working in its trailmarker tracks, by which I mean its opener, centerpiece and closer. Launching with “Desolate Lands” and closing with the acoustic “Dark Skies,” Atala puts “Sun Worship” at the heart of The Bearer of Light, which would seem to be no coincidence given the flow of the release overall. And while that view doesn’t necessarily account for the perceived sociopolitical reckoning of “Won’t Subside” or “Naive Demur,” or even “Dark Skies” somewhat, it stresses the importance of the desert itself as part of the character of the work, which it is, whatever other topics might be discussed in the not-always-easily-deciphered lyrics.

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“Sun Worship” begins with a sample of George Carlin from 1999’s You are All Diseased talking about becoming a sun worshiper as opposed to following Christianity and then undertakes a massive intro roll with far-back semi-spoken, maybe throat-sung vocals before a count-in transitions to the verse riff proper, clean vocals there meeting head-on with a meaner chorus soon enough. There’s a kind of chant in the second half of the song, which seems to purposefully devolve ahead of its fadeout, moving into the more structured “Venomous Lure” and subsequently the long-gone-not-coming-back foray of “Won’t Subside.” Certainly the stage is set for these transitions earlier in The Bearer of Light throughout “Desolate Lands,” “Upon the Altar” and “Naive Demur,” but at the same time one finds footing in the beginning, middle and end, the willfulness with which Atala dig deeper into their approach in this batch of material isn’t to be understated. Though somewhat obscured by the production — which is as close as I come to a qualm with it — that breadth is there in the material, in the interplay between melody and outright nastiness, and in the coherence of their craft and general reach of their sound. Stratton‘s fuzz lead alone in the opener is enough of a hook to capture the listener’s attention, never mind the rumble and roll that surrounds.

Subtle volume swells back the acoustic guitar of “Dark Skies,” with a rhythmic strum taking the place that otherwise might be held by percussion and soulful vocals overtop, reminding that one element Atala have never lacked has been conviction. They present that perhaps most boldly of all on The Bearer of Light, finding a way to commune with the desert without giving themselves over to stylistic cliché or losing the progressive thread of their work to this point, keeping that feel of searching for something in themselves and in their songs that has helped define them up to now. With the turn of production, it becomes more difficult to see where Atala might head next time around, if they’ll return to work with someone else at the helm or take the lessons of this collection forward and continue in the fashion of DIY recordmaking. I don’t know, but what feels most essential to stress is that The Bearer of Light is more than a test of a new production method.

It’s that too, to be sure, but it also brings out Atala‘s widest range of songwriting, and sees them able to handle themselves no matter which direction a given piece might go, whether it’s the extremity of “Upon the Altar” or the relative accessibility of “Venomous Lure” and the organically delivered finish of “Dark Skies.” Their output remains considered and rife with perspective instrumentally as well as lyrically, and their chemistry has never sounded as fluid as it does on The Bearer of Light, which is doubly impressive given that the sound of the album is so clearly intended to lean toward live performance. Four records deep over a five-year span, Atala are still growing, still pushing themselves to places they haven’t been, and one suspects that might just be the case no matter how long and how far they go.

Atala, The Bearer of Light (2019)

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Atala to Release The Bearer of Light May 21; “Desolate Lands” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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I haven’t even had a second to check out the video below for “Desolate Lands” yet, but trust me, I’ll get there shortly. New Atala, and new Atala on relatively short notice, is only good news. The desert-dwelling atmosphericists remain aligned to Salt of the Earth Records for The Bearer of Light, which is out May 21, and preorders for the record open this very weekend. If you didn’t hear last year’s Labyrinth of Ashmedai (review here) — also on Salt of the Earth — well, it’s not too late to get into that, but these guys never fail to move forward as a matter of course, so The Bearer of Light is one to anticipate for sure. I’ll hope to have more to come as we get closer to the release.

Guitarist Kyle Stratton had a few choice things to say about it, as per the PR wire:

atala the bearer of light

ATALA: West Coast Desert Doom Trio To Release The Bearer Of Light Full-Length Via Salt Of The Earth Records; “Desolate Lands” Video Now Playing, Tour Dates Announced + Preorders Available 4/20

West Coast desert doom trio ATALA will release their The Bearer Of Light full-length via Salt Of The Earth Records on May 21st.

Returning to their DIY ethos, the seven-track desert voyage was captured and self-produced in just five days at Gatos Trail in Joshua Tree with engineer Jeff Thomas. “It’s a true roller coaster of emotions: sad, angry, confused, lost… but, you can’t help but feel hope as you follow the journey,” notes founding guitarist Kyle Stratton.

“After working with producers who I admired,” Stratton continues of the decision to record The Bearer Of Light on his own, “I felt it was my time to do it my way while implementing some of the tricks they used. I wanted to record live and not overthink the process. I just wanted to capture the moment take by take. It was a learning process for both the band and myself as a producer. I literally had no idea what I was doing but I wanted the record to have a ’90s DIY feel like the stuff I grew up listening to and I think we achieved that.”

In advance of the release of The Bearer Of Light, ATALA is pleased to unveil their video for first single “Desolate Lands.” Issues Stratton of the clip, “‘Desolate Lands’ was written spontaneously in a jam and it was devastatingly heavy. Lyrically, it’s about the desert and our connection to the surrounding landscape and creatures. It’s about understanding that nature is the only true connection we have to any kind of a god or higher power. The video was created by our friend Zak Kupcha at Circulation Media. He did a great job.”

The Bearer Of Light comes swathed in Stratton’s striking cover art and will be available on, CD, LP, and digitally. Preorders begin this Saturday, 4/20 via Salt Of The Earth Records at THIS LOCATION or the ATALA website HERE.

The Bearer Of Light Track Listing:
1. Desolate Lands
2. Upon The Altar
3. Naïve Demure
4. Sun Worship
5. Venomous Lure
6. Won’t Subside
7. Dark Skies

Catch ATALA live in support of The Bearer Of Light on a near-three-week US tour this June alongside Sixes. See all confirmed dates below.

ATALA w/ Sixes:
6/14/2019 O’Malley’s – Mountain View, CA
6/15/2019 Mummer’s – Sparks, NV
6/16/2019 Beehive – Salt Lake City, UT
6/17/2019 Streets Of London – Denver, CO
6/18/2019 The Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
6/19/2019 The Lift – Dubuque, IA
6/20/2019 Reggie’s Music Hall – Chicago, IL
6/21/2019 Mohawk Place – Buffalo, NY
6/22/2019 Café 611 – Frederick, MD
6/23/2019 The Drunk Horse – Fayetteville, NC
6/24/2019 Alabama Music Box – Mobile, AL
6/25/2019 Come And Take It Live – Austin, TX
6/26/2019 Bond’s 007 Rock Bar – San Antonio, TX
6/27/2019 Rockhouse Bar & Grill – El Paso, TX
6/28/2019 House of Bards – Tucson, AZ
6/29/2019 Yucca Tap Room – Phoenix, AZ
6/30/2019 Slidebar – Fullerton, CA

ATALA:
Kyle Stratton – guitar, vocals
Jeff Tedtaotao – drums
Dave Horn – bass

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Atala, “Desolate Lands” official video

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Atala Announce November Southwestern Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

atala

With three shows in Arizona, one in New Mexico, one in L.A., and a last one in Mexico, I think it’s fair to call Atala‘s upcoming November tour one of the Southwest, but there are also dates in Salt Lake City, Denver and Wichita, Kansas, so there’s some geographical reach there as well. It’s a nine-date trek, all told, for the desert-dwelling atmosludge three-piece, who go supporting early 2018’s Labyrinth of Ashmedai (review here), released by Salt of the Earth Records, and the tour is presented by the label and Dropout Media. I haven’t heard much about Atala‘s plans for 2019 either way, whether they’ll do shows, write, or record, or lay low and/or continue to herald Labyrinth of Ashmedai, but if they’ve got new material, they’re not shy about showing it off, so there’s always the chance, and either way, I can tell you from experience at both Maryland Doom Fest and Roadburn that they deliver live. The first time Jeff Tedtaotao blows out your eardrums with his crash, you’ll be happy you showed up. I wouldn’t try to steer you wrong.

The PR wire brings the dates and the whathaveyous. Goes like this:

atala tour

CA Desert Doom masters, ATALA, announce West Coast tour

After a short hibernation, ATALA is ready to devastate the west coast when they embark on their upcoming “Destroy Yourself” tour. This string of dates in support of their recent release “Labyrinth Of Ashmedai”(Salt Of The Earth Records) will see the California Hi-Desert natives bringing their brand of dark and heavily emotional doom metal to new areas and regions in an effort to spread the gospel of heavy… in other words, they are firing up the van and bringing the music directly to the people.

No strangers to roadwork ATALA have been featured performers at festivals far and wide such as The Maryland Doomfest, The New England Stoner and Doom Fest, SX Stoner Jam, and the true Mecca of riff worship: ROADBURN (Tilburg, Netherlands)!

ATALA has shared the stage with acts such as The Obsessed, EARTHRIDE, Baroness, Pallbearer, Coven, Buzzard Canyon, Chelsea Wolfe, to name just a few… the time is coming, you have been warned… Do not miss ATALA when they hit a city near you!

November 1st – Los Angeles CA – The Blvd
November 2nd – Salt Lake City UT – TBA
November 3rd – Denver CO – The Bar Bar
November 4th – Wichita KS – TBA
November 5th – Santa Fe NM – Boxcar
November 6th – Flagstaff AZ – The Green Room
November 7th – Tuscon AZ – Hotel Congress
November 8th – Tempe AZ – Yucca Tap Room
November 9th – Nogales Mexico – Roots Bar

ATALA is:
Kyle Stratton (Guitar and Vocals)
Jeff Tedtaotao (Drums)
Dave Horn (Bass)

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Atala, “Wilted Leaf” official video

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Atala Post “Tabernacle Of” Video; Labyrinth of Ashmedai out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

atala jenifer stratton

Atala kicking ass in the desert. Very much an imaginable scenario, as far as scenarios go, and it’s how it goes in the post-sludgers’ new video for ‘Tabernacle Of’ from their just-issued new long-player, Labyrinth of Ashmedai (review here), which came out last week on Salt of the Earth Records. At this point I’ve been through the album I don’t know how many times and between that and the recent interview posted with Atala guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Kyle Stratton, it doesn’t take me much more than seeing the title “Tabernacle Of” to have the opening lines of the song stuck in my head, let alone the shoutier hook of its chorus.

That’s not me trying to be like “I’m Mr. Dude-Really-Knows-this-Album” or anything or be like I have some special fucking connection with how Atala work. If anything, I think the clumsiness of my Six Dumb Questions in the above-linked interview proves very much the opposite, but just serves to show how god-damn catchy “Tabernacle Of” actually is. Very much part of the full-LP flow of Labyrinth of Ashmedai, it nonetheless stands out from its surroundings, and in so doing represents the record well as a whole, as one could easily say the same of accompanying cuts like “Death’s Dark Tomb” or “Grains of Sand.” Whole damn thing is full of highlights, I guess is what I’m saying.

Video is loaded with a sense of disaffection, and the groove is undeniable. If you need to know anything else about it — oh wait, you don’t.

PR wire info follows. Enjoy:

Atala, “Tabernacle Of” official video

Twentynine Palms, CA-based sludge/doom metal group ATALA just released their upcoming full-length concept album, Labyrinth of Ashmedai, via Salt of the Earth Records. Labyrinth of Ashmedai can be ordered now via https://saltoftheearthrecords.com/salt-of-the-earth-records-store.

As a follow up to their most recent music video for the sludge metal anthem “Wilted Leaf”, ATALA has just revealed another sweltering desert-based music video for the track “Tabernacle Of”.

The “Tabernacle Of” music video was filmed by Brooke Valls, edited by Konrad Pagdilao, and produced by Brooke Valls, Konrad Pagdilao and Kyle Stratton.

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Six Dumb Questions with Atala

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on January 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

atala photo jenifer stratton

One needs only to examine the purposeful creative growth undertaken over the last couple years by Atala to get a sense of the focus and intensity that drives guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton. The Twentynine Palms, California-based trio have, in the course of three full-lengths and as many years, developed and begun to refine an aesthetic as much dedicated to the individualism heralded by the Southern CA desert’s stand-apart-ness as it is distinct from the genre fare commonly associated with the region. Moving from their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) through 2016’s Shaman’s Path of the Serpent (review here) and the forthcoming Labyrinth of Ashmedai (review here) — which releases Jan. 26 via Salt of the Earth Records — Atala have worked diligently to find a sonic place of their own, and never has that been more manifest than in the crisp, mindful execution of post-sludge they proffer in the latest collection.

Produced like its predecessor by Billy Anderson (as in, yes, that Billy Anderson; he of manning the board for Sleep, the MelvinsNeurosisAcid King, so many more), Labyrinth of Ashmedai showcases its progression in the melody of “Infernal” and “I am Legion” as well as in the raw scathe of songs like “Death’s Dark Tomb” and “Wilted Leaf,” and through both, Atala have only become more recognizable as a unit. With Stratton at the forward position backed by bassist John Chavarria — since replaced by Dave Horn — and secret-weapon-until-you-actually-hear-him-play-then-way-too-loud-to-be-a-secret-anymore-weapon drummer Jeff Tedtaotao, the band present an atmospheric and conceptual reach that’s mirrored in the leanness of the songwriting and how little there actually seems to be to spare in their material. Labyrinth of Ashmedai is just under 36 minutes long. Not one minute of that time is wasted.

Likewise, Stratton does not mince his words in the interview that follows here, and I very much consider that another example of the forward-directed impulse that fuels his work with his band. Life is too short for bullshit. And it’s a fair enough argument. In talking about the album, Stratton — also a noted tattoo artist responsible for the cover art designs on Atala‘s records — relays his thoughts on the conditions of the world around him, his personal relationships, the status of the group moving into the New Year (and beyond), and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

atala labyrinth of ashmedai

Six Dumb Questions with Kyle Stratton of Atala

Tell me about choosing the title Labyrinth of Ashmedai. What’s the significance for you of Asmodeus and what does the use of that figure represent? Are you working with any kind of mysticism themes in the lyrics? How does the album art tie in, or does it?

The meaning behind the title Labyrinth of Ashmedai was quite simple: I wanted to use this fictional character as a way to conceal my truths in a metaphor. I wanted to vent my frustration towards the ludicrousy of anglo Saxon culture. I find it hilarious that our society is 70 percent people who believe in fairytales.

They use these fairytales to condemn others with different cultures, beliefs or even disbeliefs. At the same time using their religious beliefs, condoning their own horrible behaviors. I thought it would be interesting to wrap my frustrations up on a metaphor about raising the 72 legions of Hell and using the occult to damn souls for eternity. It was fun.

As far as the artwork, it is based off the three-headed demon Ashmedai; it is definitely meant to tie in. I prefer to use the original Hebrew name Ashmedai over the Roman copy Asmodeous. The religious texts were originally written in the Middle East not Europe.

In terms of following up Shaman’s Path of the Serpent, was there anything you knew you specifically wanted to do differently this time around? What lessons were you able to take from making that album and bring into the writing and recording processes for this one?

Truth is I wanted to drive more and be more aggressive both musically and vocally. I held back a lot on Shaman’s Path. I get bored with that stuff. It’s to blah… I want to be more honest in my art and I felt like we did that. I am not always sad or soft spoken. I can be. But, I am also at times aggressive and very vocal. Well, let’s face it: I am super bipolar.

Tell me about recording with Billy Anderson. This was your second time with him. What was the vibe in the studio like and what did he end up contributing to the record in terms of noise? How big a role has he played in how your sound has developed so far?

Most of the vibe and feedback is my guitar sounds, he contributed to the noise at the end of “Death’s Dark Tomb,” which was genius. As far as vibe in the studio. There was a whole lot of tension between John, the former bass player, and I. Our lifestyles were beginning to clash. Lots of tensions. I am a family man; he is something else.

That was something everyone in the studio had to deal with. I thought Billy was really good at channeling it, using the tension for the good of the record. He has helped mold us in as far as ironing out a few wrinkles but ultimately it is our songwriting. He is great at capturing it.

I was fortunate enough to see Atala play at Roadburn in 2017. How was that experience for you guys as a band? Will you look to get back to Europe in support of Labyrinth of Ashmedai?

It was a lot of fun. Especially with my hand-picked lineup. Playing with Jeff and Dave is my ideal lineup, I loved when Dave was in Rise of the Willing. We had a killer connection. Jeff, he is a rock, such a solid drummer and stable person. Holland was smooth and we were treated very well by the Roadburn crew.

I was proud of what we presented. Especially getting Dave prepared to play an hour set of material in just seven weeks. He and Jeff both did great. I am not sure if we are getting back to Europe this year but I am told it is in the works.

What’s the status of Atala overall going into the album release? You had put up a pretty frustrated-seeming post about dealing with making music and preferring graphic art and tattoo culture specifically. Will the band continue? What is the relationship for you between working in design and writing songs?

The band will definitely continue, with a team who wants to push forward in a more professional manner. I like the tattoo industry because I am responsible for my own art. Most artist in the community grind to pay bills and work as a means to earn a living with hard work and focus. My frustration, it was personal. I am tired of the elitism and the whole party scene, I don’t party anymore, so I don’t fit in well.

I am at point where I want to show my family and children you can play music as a career. Not just surround yourself with shitbags who will never amount to anything. I love Pentagram musically but I think characters like Bobby Liebling being marketed as “rock and roll” is embarrassing. I don’t want to be part of that. I would not be able to handle a person like that around me. I would be like, dude, get your shit together. I mean this is what we are told rockers are. Yuck. I don’t want to be that at all.

I just watched a good friend, a brother throw his fucking life away to drugs. That is some hard shit to see. I personally had to step away. In design I don’t focus too heavily on my own head – I draw what others want — whereas in songwriting it is very internal. Getting that far in my own mind is very dangerous.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

You can be cool without being a junkie. We all make mistakes and fall short at times. Just try and live the best way you can.

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Atala, Labyrinth of Ashmedai: Building a Tabernacle

Posted in Reviews on December 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

atala labyrinth of ashmedai

To say an album gets better with volume is one of rock’s all-time clichés. It’s also usually bullshit. In the case of Labyrinth of Ashmedai, the third full-length from desert-dwelling post-sludge trio Atala, I’ll say it doesn’t hurt. The Twentynine Palms, California, three-piece make their debut on Salt of the Earth Records with their latest collection, with an early 2018 release following up on 2016’s Shaman’s Path of the Serpent (review here) and their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), and like its predecessor, the tight, six-song/35-minute outing was produced and engineered by Billy Anderson (MelvinsNeurosisSleepAcid King, etc.) and demonstrates considerable growth from the release before it. One could argue Shaman’s Path of the Serpent was a moment in which Atala — now the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton, bassist Dave Horn (who replaces John Chavarria) and drummer Jeff Tedtaotao — discovered the atmospheric reaches they wanted to cover with their sound, following the initial exploration of their Scott Reeder-helmed first offering.

Even so, Labyrinth of Ashmedai, with its cover art by Stratton, flowing presentation of one piece into the next, more accomplished use of vocal melodies (and harmonies) and offsetting of patient ambience with crushing tonality and crash, stands as a remarkable forward manifestation of the next step in the direction that Shaman’s Path of the Serpent laid out. Arranged across two three-song sides, each capping with a track longer than eight minutes — those being “Death’s Dark Tomb” (8:35) and the triumphant finale “Infernal” (8:19) — Labyrinth of Ashmedai immerses the listener its in nodding groove and fluidly executes a deceptive precision in building an arc of momentum that carries across the entire span. And though relatively short with its noted, manageable, vinyl-ready runtime, that span remains significant.

A resounding spaciousness is perhaps what Atala take most from the Californian desert, but they have little in common ultimately with “desert rock” as a genre outside of geography (and it’s certainly arguable geography is irrelevant in the aesthetic concern), and instead meld influences from Neurosis and YOB together with the rawer impulses of sludge. After an initial sample and a measure-long intro to initiate the stomp, “Grains of Sand” finds Stratton guttural in his railing against mediocrity and contemplating universal mortality atop a chugging riff fervently pushed ahead by Tedtaotao‘s creative drumming.

They are not a minute into the song before the lumbering hook churns out its furies and takes a twisting route back to the verse, chugging and vaguely hinting at melody to come along the way. The subsequent “Tabernacle of” revives the heavier ’90s-derived alt. metal melodicism one heard on cuts like “Gravity” from the last record, but in so doing, shifts with a newfound subtlety from the more scathing “Grains of Sand” via an emerging call and response Stratton sets up between cleaner and harsh vocals. With a more lumbering groove at its foundation, “Tabernacle Of” nonetheless retains the momentum of the opener before it, and feeds directly into “Death’s Dark Tomb,” which begins with a few seconds of droning noise — which Anderson may or may not have provided — before the guitar, bass and drums kick in to unveil the greatest sense of weight Atala have yet to bring to Labyrinth of Ashmedai, the vocals recalling Crowbar in the first verse as they set up a more spacious chorus that proves to be arguably the most landmark hook the album has to its credit.

atala photo jenifer stratton

Tedtaotao works in some notable double-kick moving back into the second verse and is head-spinning on tom runs throughout, while the low end density provides the foundation from which the band’s atmosphere spreads outward in a manner one might call psychedelic were it not so much imbued with the taste of dry dirt. Maybe psych, but for sure bound to the earth as well as its Mike Scheidt-style squibbly guitar lead gives way to a huge slowdown and the song devolves in its last minute-plus into feedback and noise, ending side A with particular and pointed viciousness.

While progressive in how it sees the band willfully pushing themselves stylistically, Labyrinth of Ashmedai is noteworthy as well for what StrattonHorn and Tedtaotao bring to it in terms of songwriting, and the linear pairing of “Death’s Dark Tomb” and side B opener “I am Legion” emphasizes the range they’ve developed in what seems like just a few short years of working as a group. Heard without the split of sides — that is, on a CD or digital format, rather than flipping a record — “I am Legion” picks up with drums from the silence left behind after “Death’s Dark Tomb” and centers almost entirely around its chorus, but in that, the two pieces end up complementing each other with a fluidity that even with the stark divide between them is undeniable.

Further, “I am Legion” works to reestablish and expound on the melodic basis of “Tabernacle Of,” and does so effectively, so that immediately Atala seem to be reaching even further out with the second half of the album. Time, then, for a radical redirect away from the expected, and that’s just what “Wilted Leaf” brings. At 3:59, it’s the shortest inclusion on Labyrinth of Ashmedai, and though awash in echo, it’s also the rawest since “Grains of Sand” at the outset, with shouts crawling upward from the depths of the mix barely decipherable in the riff-led torrent surrounding, and even a more fuzz-toned solo in the back half does little to take away from the sense of assault. This also is part of a larger plan, however, and closer “Infernal” — which is neither the catchiest nor the heaviest song here but might be the record’s greatest aesthetic accomplishment all the same; also bearing some of the hallmarks of a YOB influence in its initial rollout — takes hold with an immediate shift toward melody. Stratton seems to loosely touch on Electric Wizard in the verse’s bounce, but is ultimately headed elsewhere, toward more individualized fare that represents one last considered shove into new territory for Atala.

A final chorus underscores the point as they pass the halfway mark and turn to an instrumental finish that, rather than give itself to an overblown payoff, slows down, gets quieter and eases the listener’s way out with a stretch of bass and drone and residual effects, and though they’ve managed to stave off pretense for the duration, Atala have all the same given their audience a glimpse of the realization of the potential they’ve shown all along. Does that mean they’re finished growing? I don’t think so and I hope not, but it does mean that the expansion of their approach pays significant dividends in these tracks already. And yeah, volume doesn’t hurt when it comes to the overall listening experience, but at whatever level one might take it on, Labyrinth of Ashmedai successfully leads through the maze it creates.

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Atala Set Jan. 26 Release for Labyrinth of Ashmedai

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

atala photo jenifer stratton

Among my regular supply of stock phrases I might employ on a given day, I feel like ‘in the hopper’ isn’t one I go to all that often. Nonetheless, that’s where Atala‘s third album, Labyrinth of Ashmedai, has been for at least the better part of a year if not actually a full year’s time. Recorded by Billy Anderson, it was originally set to see release in Spring 2017 via Salt of the Earth Records, but has now been given an official Jan. 26, 2018, issue date.

Makes life a little easier for me, since as I compile my year-end list for 2017 and the most anticipated list for 2018 one is finite and the other can pretty much just keep going at this point, but I honestly doubt the Twentynine Palms, California-based three-piece had that in mind throughout what’s almost certainly been a frustrating delay in bringing the record to public ears. Almost there, dudes.

The PR wire has the latest:

atala labyrinth of ashmedai

ATALA to Release New Album, “Labyrinth of Ashmedai”, on January 26, 2018

After years of turning heads in the subterranean metal scene, Twentynine Palms, CA-based sludge/doom metal group ATALA are rising above with the release of their most confident album yet – the full-length crusher Labyrinth of Ashmedai – out January 26, 2018 via Salt of the Earth Records. Pre-orders for Labyrinth of Ashmedai are available now via https://saltoftheearthrecords.com/salt-of-the-earth-records-store.

Conjuring grit-laced sludge inspired by their barren and often oppressive desert backdrop, ATALA grips the listener with reflective, crushing doom atmospheres dripping with stoner rock and experimental influences to boot. As with their last record, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent, Labyrinth of Ashmedai was produced by Billy Anderson, recognized for his work with colossal bands such as Sleep, Melvins and Acid King.

ATALA draws inspiration from their local environment, but not in the way other bands from the area do. “Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t from Joshua Tree, the tourist-trap,” starts guitarist/frontman Kyle Stratton. “Unlike our silver spoon-fed, trust-funded neighbors, we’re from the blue collar side of town. Twentynine Palms is a military base area – our surroundings inspire our music in a way that is pretty different from the way other local bands describe their own inspirations. It’s not all meditation and serenity out here.”

Stratton continues, “We feel more sullen in our outlook. Not only do we deal with weather reaching nearly 130 degrees, we see and experience the effects of true struggles – war, poverty, death, drugs, gang violence, prostitution and murder – quite often. Gun stores, casinos, churches, liquor stores, bars, wild animals and greed-based-politics just touch the surface of what our town offers. Without going into too much detail… it’s no easy life for us out here. Our music is a mirror that reflects the truth of our personal life experiences.”

Stratton says working with producer Billy Anderson gives ATALA a great advantage, because not only does he bring out their best, he understands their background on a personal level. “Billy was born and raised in Twentynine Palms, so not only does he understand our feelings of despair, he understands the heaviness we are trying to express musically. He helped mold us; he knows how to package heavy in a palatable way. You can hear his industrial stylings and noise contributions adding to the experimental vibe we have on this record. Because we are so comfortable with him, he is able to push us and bring us to a higher level.”

ATALA, Labyrinth of Ashmedai tracklist:
1. Grains of Sand
2. Tabernacle of
3. Deaths Dark Tomb
4. I am Legion
5. Wilted Leaf
6. Infernal

ATALA is:
Kyle Stratton (Guitar and Vocals)
Jeff Tedtaotao (Drums)
Dave Horn (Bass)

https://www.facebook.com/ataladesertrock/
https://atalarock.bandcamp.com/
https://www.atalarock.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
https://www.saltoftheearthrecords.com/

Atala, “Grains of Sand” official video

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Atala Post “Grains of Sand” Video; Labyrinth of Ashmedai Coming Soon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

atala roadburn 2017 (Photo JJ Koczan)

High among the myriad pleasures offered at this year’s Roadburn festival in the Netherlands was the chance to see Twentynine Palms, California’s Atala play not one, but two sets (reviews here and here), both of them rife with new material from their forthcoming Labyrinth of Ashmedai album on Salt of the Earth Records. And among the new songs aired — cuts like “Death’s Dark Tomb” and “Infernal” — a decided standout was the raw thrust of “Grains of Sand,” for which the three-piece now present a corresponding video that also marks the reveal of the studio version of the song, which stands among their most aggressive and lumbering works to date.

Between their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) and its 2016 follow-up, Shaman’s Path of the Serpent (review here), the three-piece showed considerable sonic progression, and Labyrinth of Ashmedai would seem to hold that line. Produced once again by Billy Anderson, the third Atala long-player comes across as more sure of its direction and more confident in its approach than anything the band has done before, giving the impression that they’ve found the path they want to walk and are setting about leaving considerable footprints behind them as they go.

I’ll hope to have more on it as we get closer to the release — I’m still not sure of the exact date, but it can’t be too far off at this point — but you can check out the clip for “Grains of Sand” below, which gives the track a rehearsal-room showcase and recalls glory-days Crowbar videos in some of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Stratton‘s clawing at his own face and copious beardage. Good fun all the way around.

Enjoy:

Atala, “Grains of Sand” official video

Grains of Sand off the soon to be released Atala album. “Labyrinth of Ashmedai ” coming soon on Salt Of the Earth Records.

Filmed: Brooke Valls
Edited: Think Infinite Productions

ATALA is:
Kyle Stratton (Guitar and Vocals)
Jeff Tedtaotao (Drums)
John Chavarria (Bass)

Atala on Thee Facebooks

Atala on Bandcamp

Atala website

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

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