Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Senior Writer/Journalist ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway, Owner/Editor
Much like the people espousing them to begin with, opinions and beliefs held by folks differ as much as daylight and darkness themselves do.
One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure and one man’s definition of “old school” is most certainly not every man’s definition of the term. I won’t even begin to address all the numerous takes on what is or what is not old school, who is and who isn’t. Instead, let’s just get started with the geographic location of Manchester, England, circa 2004.
This is ground zero, the home of newly formed band ATAVIST, comprised of quartet Toby Bradshaw (vocals), Shane Ryan (bass), Chris Naughton (guitars), and Jamie Sykes (drums). Despite their not having released any official material at this point, they are tapped to open a series of shows for drone doom mystics Sunn O))). It is during this tour that ATAVIST record a one-song demo track, “31:38“, and the strength of the song helps land a recording deal with Invada Records (founded by Portishead’s Geoffrey Paul Barrow).
With label support and promotion now backing them, ATAVIST record their self-titled introduction and it is released in 2005. The line-up of the band is the same from the earlier demo, except for the drummer slot, as Sykes has been replaced by Callum Cox. As equally important as who is on the recording is WHAT is on the album; its contents, the music itself. Meshing together a blend of battering hardcore-infused sludge with multiple styles of doom, ala drone and funeral, the music is most abrasive. There are definitive nuances of psychedelia, ambient, and atmospheric-oriented sonics inserted for good measure. To top it off, the vocals are also varied, ranging from death metal type guttural ones to a more shriek-like black metal delivery.
This is followed by the full-on foray into their experimental leanings, as ATAVIST then collaborate with Canadian ambient outersound duo Nadja. This results in the nearly hour long, two-track exploration of otherworldly audio known as ‘12012291920 / 1414101‘.
The band’s sophomore full-length arrived in 2007, ‘II: Ruined‘, which seemed to find ATAVIST only doubling down on everything making them… well, them. Increased aggression, elevated psychedelia, enhanced doom and despair, all accounted for and it’s a good thing, too. The recording is released in the U.K. and Europe through Invada Records once again, but in the U.S., Profound Lore handles release and distribution. There are slight differences between the two, including different artwork, as the Invada version is in a jewel-case format. The Profound Lore version is a digipak CD with a tracklist that contains a cover of Grief’s “I Hate The Human Race” not found on the U.K. version.
In 2008, ATAVIST returns with the Rise Above Records two-song, 10″ vinyl EP ‘Alchemic Resurrection‘. There is a digital release of the EP, as well, one with two added bonus cover songs, “House Anxiety” from Iron Monkey, and “Mindless” from Infest. There’s a second collaboration with Nadja that comes the same year, ‘II: Points At Infinity‘ (Profound Lore), as well as a three-way split with both, alongside Satori titled ‘Infernal Procession… And Then Everything Dies‘ (Cold Spring Records).
Somewhere around the time of the recording sessions for the split releases, ATAVIST undergoes some changes in its membership. These begin with the departure of bassist and founding member Shane Ryan, replaced by ex-Narcosis member Oliver Turner, while drummer Simon Lucas and second guitarist Richard Brass also join. Having now broken into the U.S. market, recognition of and interest in ATAVIST is growing, at home in the U.K. and elsewhere, so the lads know what they must do to capitalize on this…
Go on indefinite hiatus! I am being sarcastic, of course, but it is no less truthful, as ATAVIST do exactly that near the end of the 2000’s. The guys go on to play in other bands over the years, including Winterfylleth, Nine Covens, Pine Barrens, and Satanic Dystopia and, thankfully, indefinite does not mean forever.
2017 sees the long awaited return of ATAVIST after nearly a decade’s absence, Toby Bradshaw, Chris Naughton, Shane Ryan, and Callum Cox begin to create the next chapter of their story. It continues with their recent signing to Candlelight Records and coinciding with it, ATAVIST announced the release of their new full-length offering, ‘III: Absolution‘. Their third full-length studio album is set to arrive June 19, 2020, and promises to triumphantly pick up where their last left off some 13 years ago. This is evidenced by “Self-Realisation“, the first single recently premiered from the album and included below with the album artwork and tracklist.
‘III: Absolution‘ was recorded and produced by Chris Fielding (Napalm Death, Winterfylleth. Electric Wizard) at Skyhammer & Foel Studios, and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, Old Lady Drivers). Guests on the album include Jo Quail on cello (Mono, My Dying Bride), Bianca Blezard on viola and violin (Winterfylleth), and keyboardist Mark Deeks (Winterfylleth).
Enjoy the return of truly catastrophic sludgened doom like no other!