Album Review: The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir

Picture in your mind for a moment 90’s supermodel Cindy Crawford (but just a moment, I don’t want things getting weird this early in the review). Cindy Crawford was the pinnacle of sex appeal and otherworldly beauty in her heyday, a woman known worldwide for nothing more than being really, really, REALLY attractive. And she did all this despite having a gigantic mole on her upper lip. Not only did she achieve goddess status despite this mole, but the damn thing became her identifying feature. Suddenly, her mole wasn’t a mole, but a “beauty mark”. Who woulda thunk it.

That’s my long-winded and convoluted way of introducing you to Coma Noir from Atlas MothChicago’s The Atlas Moth, and amazing record with a giant mole right on its lip that, despite its overwhelming ugliness, just somehow works.

Featuring a trio of guitar players and some sensational song writing, Coma Noir is an atmospherically rich record that takes so many things that have been done before in metal and puts a modern spin on them. With a mixture of chugging riffs and melodic main guitar parts, The Atlas Moth give a fresh take on mid-2000’s metalcore, crafting a sound comparable to a sophisticated, more nuanced God Forbid. With small doses of prog and industrial thrown in for good measure, Coma Noir is an engaging listen from Track 1, full of impressive guitar work (on all three accounts), punishing and energetic drums, and some fine keyboard work just to put the cherry on top.

But…boy, do the vocals take some getting used to. The screams on the album fall somewhere in between a fork caught in the garbage disposal and a cat about to throw up a hairball (for those of you unfamiliar with what either of those sound like, that’s not a compliment). It’s only through the sheer awesomeness of the music that I gave their first single, “Actual Human Blood”, more than one solitary listen. But I’m certainly glad I did, because not only do the vocals grow enough on you to make the album listenable, they become a strength of the record (see, now you get my Cindy Crawford analogy?).

While the band is weaving in and out of genres, alternating crushingly heavy guitar chugs with mysterious, borderline post-rock riffs, Stavros Giannopoulos’ shrill cries become an evil constant on the album, always bringing you back to shore when the guitars take you far, far away. And when complemented by the brooding, menacing “clean” vocals on the record, suddenly the screams start to add more to the album than they take away. In a vacuum, I don’t think there are too many people that would enjoy the piercing cries of Coma Noir. But in the dark, foreboding context of the album? They work wonderfully. I don’t expect everybody to love Stavros’ voice, but even if you can’t get into them, give the album full listen before moving on.

Between the catchy riffs of “Authentic Human Blood” (which, by the way, has to be one of my favorite song titles of the year), the proggy goodness of “The Streets of Bombay”, or the titanic closing vocals on the opening track, “Coma Noir”, The Atlas Moth have crafted an early contender for Album of the Year with Coma Noir, a catchier-than-hell record with more than enough depth of songwriting to warrant many listens. Plus, it’s got its own sexy “beauty mark” to top it all off.

GRADE: B+

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS:

“Coma Noir”, “Galactic Brain”, “The Streets of Bombay”, “Actual Human Blood”, “The Frozen Crown”

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