Astronauts. Fuckin everywhere. They're the new skulls. If you google post-rock and post-hardcore, a load of astronauts will eventually appear at your window; ask your Grandma if she knows what they are, she'll say 'Is it them with the astronaut?' The recent death of Neil Armstrong has already spawned 844 ideas for post-something concept albums based on his life. All of them will have an astronaut on the cover, with some sort of galaxy cluster thing in the background, and feature zero gravity soundscapes built round 'haunting textures'.
Atlas:Empire blend a few recognizable styles: early ATD-I's skewed, melancholic sense of melody, late Biffy Clyro's plaintive future-ballads (on 'At the Edge of the Ravine' specifically), Explosions In The Sky's sense of space. They're not far removed from Newcastle's In Oceans, with a bit more of a sparse feel. Like that band's first release, this is one small, tentative step in the right direction from some really talented musicians, though overall it feels a little neutered, unwilling to fully commit and announce itself as Atlas:Empire. In making such a huge effort to emote, it doesn't always feel natural.
They cram a lot of ideas and genres into relatively short songs; 'At the Edge of the Ravine' bubbles out of some peaceful electronics to reveal a fairly bouncy pop song with lots of delicate guitars, then just sort of fizzles out. 'What do we say to the God of Death' successfully incorporates some sharp hooks into some spectacular post-hardcore dynamics. After that, 'I was expecting ghosts' has some great sounds, with odd drum figures and effects-soaked vocal tracks, without ever threatening to be a great song. It should by rights be as good as 'Empty Vesssels Make the Loudest Sound' off 'Noctourniquet'; but it never locks into a rhythm that really grabs you, and thus ends up seeming a bit pompous and whiney. 'Who watches the watchmen' is more prog, but it's somewhat disjointed and the only thing that livens it up is the outro, where some cool digital bass throbs precede a high-grade seasick monster riff.
Russian Circles make me want to do the nasty with the other half on board the ISS. For the moment, Atlas:Empire must content themselves with the notion of soundtracking me humping my favourite sofa on board Virgin Galactic. Grimacing, really powering into an exposed yellow foam hole in it, in mid air, until the spluff floats off and lands in Richard Branson's beard.
Posted: Sun 9 September 2012