Atrox

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Mesmerised

Atrox - Mesmerised ©1997 Head Not Found
1. Intro
2. Steeped In Misery As I Am
3. Wave
4. The Ocean
5. A Minds Escape
6. Flower Meadow
7. The Air Shed Tears
8. Hic Illae la Crimae

Way back in time, back when most people accessed the internet via dial-up and the preferred format for music was this thing called a "compact disc", there was a period where the Norwegian band Atrox had not yet gone off the deep end. And by that I am referring to the years where they featured the lead vocals of a certain "Monika" who had quite the range and had no fear letting it loose with some of the wildest sounds imagineable. However, this wasn't always the case for Atrox as their debut actually found Monika showing restraint and the band on a whole occupying the general musical world of their friends The 3rd & the Mortal. Mesmerised was certainly a product of its time as it featured the growly male vocals matched up with Monika's inarguably impressive abilities, but Atrox was also willing to experiment with more styles, including electronic music (as heard on "A Minds Escape" with its touch of trip hop percussion). One can also tell this band grew up listening to various early doom metal bands and the influence is quite noticeable, particularly where you get the gruff male vocals.

With Monika's vocals often providing texture and not being quite the prominent jab in the eardrums of later records, Mesmerised is a very good debut and one of Atrox's better albums in their back catalogue. It offers both heaviness and dreamy atmospherics by a band who is not scared to allow a wider array of sounds to influence their music. The whole "beauty and the beast" fad was ramping up around 1997, but Atrox completely bypassed the cheesy gothic tendencies most of those bands displayed. And for that, we have a record that is very listenable and enjoyable a decade and a half later.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2011

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Contentum

Atrox - Contentum ©2000 Season of Mist
1. Sultry Air
2. Unsummoned
3. Lizard Dance
4. Panta Rei
5. Gather In Me No More
6. Ignoramus
7. Letters To Earth
8. Serenity
9. Homage
10. What Crawls Underneath
11. Torture
12. Outro

There's a band called the Cranberries who received some mainstream attention awhile back with one of their songs. That song was one of the most grating things to ever get such widespread attention as their singer, whose voice was talented, decided to hit as many notes as possible in completely unnecessary moments. Enter Atrox into the left field metal world. Related to The 3rd & the Mortal (vocalist Monika of Atrox is sisters with Ann Mari of 3rd, just so you get the family reunions straight), Atrox offers a rather adventurous approach to atmospheric metal that is often tests the listener's limits with the vocals. It is one thing for a vocalist to have a huge range and array of approaches, but there is also something called taking things too far. For a quick example, Monika actually squeaks on the opening song, "Sultry Air". At other times throughout the album, acting like a tapeworm that won't go away, she sounds like a four year old poltergeist girl. When one carrying one note would do, she hits her vocals like a shredder guitarist practicing scales. It is entirely frustrating to hear her continually do this throughout the album because first and foremost, she is extremely talented and her voice has wonderful qualities and secondly, the band lays down some very interesting progressive left field metal, taking cues from The 3rd & the Mortal as well as an entire cavalry of ambitious artists. "Gather in Me No More" has some Coroner-esque riffage while "Ignoramus" offers a serene keyboard base. "Homag" has quieter moments that could actually find Monika not trying to accomplish too much with her vocals.

Contentum is the kind of album that you will utterly find impossible to sit through all the way on the first listen. Granted, each listen has eased me into their excellent music and taught me some tolerance for the vocals, but at the same time, it's a shame that it requires such effort to put aside the detracting vocals just to enjoy the music. With luck, Monika will rein herself in a bit on their next album and not come across as the pest.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2000

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Binocular

Atrox - Binocular ©2008 Season of Mist
1. Retroglazed
2. No Coil for Tesla
3. Traces
4. Headrush Helmet
5. Filthmonger
6. Orgone
7. Tight Tie
8. Binocular
9. Castle of Thorns
10. Transportal

Atrox has spent much of their musical career treading water in the realm of avant-garde metal and unfortunately not gaining many fans along the way. Up until 2004, their efforts featured vocalist Monika Edvardsen, whose incredible range was matched only by her inability to restrain her talents within the contexts of the song. Atrox thought they were pushing envelopes, but instead, they were pushing people away. However, after the band's 2003 effort, Orgasm, Edvardsen left Atrox for whatever reason and the band was left to reinvent themselves. Rather than find another shrieking siren, Atrox turned to Rune FolgerÝ to fulfill the vocal position. The resulting retooled Atrox finally issued a new release called Binocular in 2008.

The difference between old Atrox and new is as stunning as night and day. First and foremost, Binocular is actually quite good. Their previous three releases often featured moments where discerning listeners might say, "Harumph, not bad, old sport" at various intriguing sections, but on the whole, Atrox was very difficult to sit through. Binocular rectifies that problem. Part of that reinvention can be credited to FolgerÝ's vocal approach. While Edvardsen had a striking range and no idea how to properly use it, FolgerÝ has a limited approach and somehow manages to deliver the lyrics with passion and conviction. It is without a doubt a case of doing much more with less. Musically, Atrox has moved into the "weirdo-metal" area, working with industrial aspects, layers of samples and electronic influences. However, the wall of guitar rhythms should dispell any concerns that the band is going to mimic, say, The Prodigy. Binocular is best experienced with headphones as the production is very textured and there are quite a few things going on in the background. And unlike many metal bands, Atrox has developed a strong sense of dynamics, giving Binocular a sonic edge.

Atrox has moved away from a style that was difficult to endure and have thoroughly reinvented themselves in a refreshing manner. Their sound dwells roughly in the same area as Solefald, except featuring real songwriting skill. In fact, I probably shouldn't compare them to Solefald at all, because that's just mean.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2009

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