ARX ATRATA – The Path Untravelled

ARX ATRATA – The Path Untravelled

In atmospheric black metal the emphasis can be on either atmospheric or black, but this one-man British band succesfully merged both aspects with equal strength at Emperor-ic level on this 2nd album, while adding a strong melodeath of 1999/2000 Dark Tranquillity, with excellent results.

Arx Atrata’s sole member, a multinstrumentalist/vocalist, Ben Sizer, created the atmospheric black metal project, in Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England, in 2010, debuting with "Oblivion" 3 years later. "Spiritus In Terra" LP (2016), followed by this 7 track full length, all 3 independently produced and released by Ben himself. Usually, in my book, one man armies get extra points, or rather, they don’t lose any points where others would. Making music, and even just growling to it is not an easy feat, how much more doing everything alone!

Just one listen of "The Path Untravelled" shows that Ben is, thanfully, all about quality, taking care that both, atmospheric and black, are fully expressed in his music. He is a dreamer, and he knows that in this mundane and often depressing life we live music ought to take us to uncharted teritories of our dreams, such as in the favorite, pure melodeath of "An Undying Verse" of Emperor-ic splendor married to "Pojector/Haven" Dark Tranquillity-ian melodicism, dreams you buried alive long time ago (to borrow from Jamey Jasta) and this is most powerfully conveyed in the self-explanatory title track where Ben melded "Mandylion" The Gathering into "The Mind’s Eye" of Dark Tranquillity. Do you have regrets about the past, would you have done some things differently, do you feel a gnawing sense of underachievement, or, perhaps, underexperience of the good in life? Feel it through the most excellent "Elmet", where Insomnium’s slowed down "Daughter Of The Moon" riffs ride the Emperor-ic compositional outreach broken up by October Tide/Katatonia acoustic guitarwork. Is your life passing you by as you march toward your inevitable departure from this realm of blood, sweat and tears? Look no further than the closing "Wraith", the most progressive track on the album. It is as though Ben decided right in the studio that he would write nothing but the catchiest and most melodic riffs and melodies he could muster.

While "The Path Untravelled" contains nothing even remotely related to a filler, there are a couple of songs, which, although excellent, could have been better which is only evident when comparing to the aforementioned standouts. "Brethren And Betrayer" sounds like Insomnium’s "Across The Dark" in its least impressive moments, which are very hard to find to begin with, the intro opening the album seems a tad superfluous, while the first track proper, "To Be Reborn", while containing fantastic Asgaroth/Hypocrisy references, seems slightly underdeveloped. As you can see, the songwriting is so good, even my flaw section appears to be incoherent, however, even after 4th revolution anything above 5/6 seemed to high a score to me.

Merging the best of melodeath with atmospheric progressive black was a right decision for the sole creator of Arx Atrata especially with such strong songwriting which Ben Sizer presents on his 2nd full length. This album feels special and evokes the feelings intended by the artist, therefore it comes highly recommended.