[Reviewed by stark]
This CD’s youth is already behind it, but since we received it for review let’s lean over it for a while. I admit that when I played “Via Combusta” for the first time I didn’t check the booklet, allowing the music to speak for itself. At the same time I imagined that it’s a band from Russia, so I was a little surprised to hear the first song and the Greek spirit spilling out of it.
For Atra Hora, my fellow readers, although formerly comes from Russia, there are plenty of references from under the Acropolis (eg. the leader’s name – Yanis Georgiadi) and is a group dealing with melodic death/black metal, implementing into it a great deal of both folk and slightly neoclassical elements. So something where the Greeks feel like a fish in water. The Septic Flesh and Rotting Christ influences are noticeable from the first eavesdrop, even for someone who has lost touch with this music many years ago.
“Via Combusta” or “The Burning Way” is their second album. In 2010, they released “Lost In The Depths” and in 2014 an EP containing some new songs, covers, etc. We’ll take a look at this one soon. The guys have been connected to the Russian Darknagar Records from their beginning, so maybe that is the cause of my first confusion. In the times of my increased interest in metal I appreciated this Greek scene very much. What’s more, I think Nightfall’s “Athenian Echoes” would for sure find its place in my … maybe not Top 10, but Top 50 of all time, all genres. Once I realized the country of origin of the leader and main composer, I silently hoped that maybe “Via Combusta” would turn out to be a pleasant return to the past, would arouse memories or trigger some sort of nostalgia.
None of the above had happened, because let’s face it, it’s the metal second division. Seemingly everything is in place, but the whole gives the impression of being a bit half-hearted. As I said before, I notice that it has something in common with Septic Flesh, Rotting Christ, sometimes even Necromantia (declamations in “Escape”), but in fact it lacks the majesty of the first band or the wild charisma of the second. From a technical point of view everything is rather flawless, specifically deep growling (another connotation with Septic Flesh), melodic riffs and the overall diversity of each composition makes it pretty catchy. Sometimes they manage to touch more sensitive strings in my heart; interestingly, these are the more lyrical parts like the ones decorating “Neo Aeon” and “Σταγόνες Του Αίματός Μου”. They captured me as well with the opening acoustic part of “Phobos”, referring to “Seasons In The Abyss” by you know who (whether consciously or not, I do not know). But ultimately it’s all not enough. Sometimes it seems as if the musicians wanted to put too many elements in one composition, and as we know usually less is more. There’s not much of their very own contribution, something that would differentiate Atra Hora from other similar bands.
Those unfamiliar with the Greek scene would do better to look around for the classics. Metal fans from Panathinaikos’ country can give “Via Combusta” a chance … but they can listen instead once again to “Non Serviam” for example, and they wouldn’t be missing much. This album is a bit like Navarone after blowing up the guns – in theory still serious, but without balls anymore.