The first quarter of 2015 has seen the continuation and ongoing evolution of atmospheric black metal ascend to dizzying heights, particularly that of the European scene. Just recently this particular style has amassed a more considerable focus on bigger and brighter futures for the likes of Winterfylleth, Wolves in the Throne Room as well as new up-and-coming underground acts who are striving hard to make a memorable stamp on the sub-genre. Terra, a Cambridgeshire-based atmospheric black metal act who, just over a week ago released their untitled debut album, certainly lean towards the more ambitious side of their future career. Though this is in all reality the band’s only official release, it is, predictably and appropriately enough, potentially a game-changer for Terra.
The debut album consists of three untitled tracks (unless you count ‘I’, ‘II’ and ‘III’ as meaningful song titles”, all of which comfortably exceed the ten-minute mark. However, the album’s opening track is unfortunately its weakest, and does not portray the band’s musical output as memorable or indeed versatile. The production seems very much clouded and obscure, so much so that it renders the first half of ‘I’ mostly ineffective to the listener, and it doesn’t help when this flaw also affects the echo-inducing shrieked vocal delivery, which strangely on the two other tracks seems a little more focused. Nonetheless, there are no barriers to withstand the copious amount of emotion and musical tone here, and that’s perhaps the strongest thing about Terra’s debut album. Whilst it doesn’t break any new ground, the opening song has much more of a climactic end than it does a striking introduction, because the second half seems so much more majestic than the first.
Putting first impressions aside however, it’s very easy to get into the other two tracks. ‘II’ is considerably shorter but as a result indulges in more celestial, whimsical atmosphere whilst at the same time maintaining that cloudy production, a somewhat eye-opening aspect of the music when you consider the song’s more progressive style. The vocal delivery is still very much an echo as opposed to a prominent sound within the album itself, but this is more than made up for by the twisting instrumental focus, and by the end the experience has amassed to that of an epic voyage through black metal’s more uplifting style. The final track then, is both the longest but slightly less self-exploratory than its precessor. With a psychadelic introduction (thanks in part to the groovy nature of the ominous rhythm section), ‘III’ evidently sways towards a more downbeat, darker collection of emotions, but in no way is it a less effective experience to listen to. Whilst ‘II’ may be the most accessible song of the three, ‘III’ counters that musical value with a growing majesty buried within the usual explosive, fast-paced black metal assault. Basically, the final song is the one which requires your attention the most, even if at times it’s hard to keep track of how different it is to its two predecessors.
Terra, among several other up-and-coming underground acts in the same scene, are definitely going to try and make their stamp on the black metal style. Whether or not they succeed in growing to a more consistent and memorable act remains to be seen, but the band’s debut album is certainly enough for Terra to set ambitious goals for the future, and their take on atmospheric black metal is far from predictable or indeed mundane.
Released: 31st March 2015