For nearly the past decade, German black metal group Downfall of Gaia has cultivated a sound rooted equally in ethereal atmosphere and earthen aggression. Over the course of four albums, the band has expanded from a more crust influenced direction towards expansive post-black metal. This is an increasingly common trajectory in extreme music, yet the sincerity and passion with which Downfall of Gaia has grown into its sound are at a clear peak on Atrophy. Earlier this year the band introduced Italian guitarist Marco Mazzola to the fold, adding to the group's international pedigree that was established with the inclusion of American drummer Michael Kadnar for the massive Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay album in 2014.
The broadening of the band's membership has invigorated their sound and presence in ways that are clear from the get-go. There is a vital, urgent strain that runs throughout Atrophy's songs, carried by frantic drumming and hoarse vocals. The greyscale universe crafted here is one of unrestrained vitality in the face of imminent death and decay. Downfall of Gaia's music stands defiant and firm against the odds. It's uncomfortable and pained, yet it has a beauty and strength that are invigorating and essential. Crystal sharp leads cut through the density of sound created on "Brood" and the massive title track, accenting moments of clarity and beauty, while the somber weight of "Ephemerol" slows things down in a brilliantly tragic way.
Now more than ever, Downfall of Gaia is taking no prisoners and setting the stage for the rawer side of post-black metal to assert itself as a worthy force. With Atrophy scheduled for release this Friday, November 11, on Metal Blade Records, Noisey is honored to share a stream for your enrichment.
Ben Handelman is on Twitter.