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Album Review: Atlas Losing Grip – Currents

3 min read

Swedish band Atlas Losing Grip continues with its fusion of grand heavy metal, lightning-speed metal and melody-driven punk on Currents, its first new album since 2011. However, the release has already been marred by the departure of long-running frontman and lead vocalist Rodrigo Alfaro due to creative differences.

Atlas Losing Grip CurrentEpic opener Sinking Ship appears to capture the band’s struggle to overcome this loss, with the sound of gentle sea waves hinting at impending doom. Crashing guitar riffs build up the momentum before the drums pound at a blistering pace, creating a massive, overwhelming sound recalling Metallica. Alfaro’s replacement, Niklas Olsson, almost sounds deadpan in the verses but soars in the choruses, which oscillate between dark and light as the imposing musical background belies the grandiose, sweeping lyrics about ‘history’ and ‘destiny’.

The Curse features a more conventional song structure, though the repeated yelps of ‘my father’s son’ and determined call to end the cycle of ‘the curse’ carry an urgent desperation that hits hard.

The galloping orgy of anger that is Cynosure has Olsson cramming in as many love letters (”my true love…my guiding star’) as possible into the shortest song on the record. Shallow ventures more into pop-punk with more sickly sweet choruses, which don’t dampen the fury of the backing track.

Apart from a tender yet vengeful break in the middle, Nemesis pounds and yells maniacally into mediocrity. Closure, by contrast, is a much needed moment of tranquility. Sounding as if it were performed in front of a royal court, this ornate, whiskey-soaked waltz floats with its lilting acoustic guitars, subtle strings and stately harmonies.The mid-tempo Kings and Fools also gets to breathe, as the frenzied band fades out to soothing ‘aah aah aah’ harmonies.

After a few so-so tracks (Cast Anchor, Unknown Waters), The End sounds final and emphatic even though it isn’t the album closer. This brooding track haunts with its organ, before being punctuated with the occasional shrieking and machine-gun-fire-like drum hits.

Downwind defies its title and theme of a descent ‘straight to hell’ with its euphoric, uplifting choruses that are bound to set a tight mosh pit bouncing. Through The Distance ups the ferocity with its impactful melody and harmonies and constantly shifting tempo.

The best track on Currents is Cold Dirt, which contrasts the regal orchestra and bright, airy piano against achingly beautiful, understated chord changes and vocals. This is a fine example of a piano rock ballad that keeps the intensity yet that goes nowhere near the saccharine.

The 11-minute closer Ithaka begins with pattering percussion and acoustic guitar over a swinging, folksy waltz suited for a night of drinking. Its status as an anthem is confirmed with triumphant, harmonising guitars over a sympathetic rhythm section. The sublime instrumental parts then give way to unnecessary speed metal that is better found elsewhere on the album, before switching back to lovely acoustic folk-rock.

Currents runs a bit longer than it should, as there are a few head-scratching moments where the anger is over-the-top. Nevertheless, there’s no denying the musical talent of this band especially in parts where the music gets to breathe.