I wanted to enjoy Atala’s Labyrinth of Ashmedai (Salt of the Earth) more than I did. Good Sludge/Doom metal has been quite in abundance for the last few years, but you can never have too much of a good thing. My issues with Labyrinth of Ashmedai aren’t too severe but begin to tally up over the duration of the album.
These issues seem to be the ones plaguing promising, but still green, local talents. And while Labyrinth is already Atala’s third LP, they are still young as a unit having only formed in 2013. The main culprit here is the sound mix, particularly when it comes to Jeff Tedtaotao’s drum sound. Because of this soundboard or instrument hiccup, any drum fills resonate like they’ve been recorded in an unfinished basement lined with wet cardboard. ‘Death’s Dark Tomb’ has a riff that swings around like Black Sabbath by the way of Neurosis, but its blunt impact is compromised by this rhythm deficiency.
Also, it’s unclear if there is a larger concept or theme at play through the album, but because of the overabundance of verses (particularly the clean vocals) the mammoth riff and grooves take a backseat to lyrics on ‘I Am Legion.’ A similar phenomenon occurs on ‘Wilted Leaf’ whose initial guitar thunder gets muted to accommodate unnecessary vocals.
But not all is lost, as Atala does overcome most of its minor flaws on ‘Infernal’ which strikes the right balance of mood, heaviness, and flashes of melody. The initial dulcet lead guitars wouldn’t be out of place on Pallbearer album, but that just acts as a warm up to the pounding doom to come. And that all the amplification keeps ratcheting up before the tune returns to sparse guitar lines to play us out.
Doom fans will find plenty to enjoy here, but I can’t wait until the next Atala release once they’ve ironed out the few wrinkles in their songwriting.