Atræ Bilis – Apexapien Review

[cover art by Eliran Kantor]

The term bouncy applies to many things in life, including:

  • A ball that you throw against the wall when you’re bored
  • An adorable kangaroo or rabbit
  • An inflatable castle that made all your friends jealous of your birthday party when you were six
  • Your wife’s chesty bits as she goes running out of the house because she’s late for work
  • And many more!

Bouncy is a word that is more often than not associated with a sense of jubilation and positivity. When used to describe music, you’ll likely think of pop or hip-hop that’s best suited for a club or raucous house party. So, to attach bouncy to Atræ Bilis’ tech-death debut full length Apexapien is perhaps an odd association to make. Dissonance heaped onto jagged rhythms and quick spurts of flailing riffage are the bread and butter here, but it belies a beatdown undercurrent that gives it a hint of bouncy fun among the serious sounds.

Release date: October 8, 2021. Label: 20 Buck Spin.
Take instrumental opener “Theta” for example, as it zigs and zags with razor-sharp guitars, the rhythms run and pummel with a hint of groove that makes you bob your head and desire a romp in the pit. Or you can throw on “By The Hierophant’s Maw” and listen to Brendan Campbell slap his bass like it’s a juicy butt at an orgy to create an almost funky emphasis on key rhythmic pops.

In true technical death metal fashion, Atræ Bilis is happy to avoid sitting still. While “Open the Effigy” sports a killer beatdown passage and an incredibly tight start-stop section that flails and shifts on a dime like a mathcore band, it spends most of its time firing a million mini-riffs that catch your ear but disappear never to be heard again. That approach to guitar is on display throughout. “To Entomb the Aetherworld” opens with a killer riff, but it’s so quick and only pops in a couple of other times, acting more like a bee sting to the ear than a lasting passage to get lost in.

That same song, however, is also a sign of their understanding of sequencing. “Lore Beyond Bone,” “Bacterium Abloom,” and “To Entomb the Aetherworld” are all around five minutes long and provide longer repeated passages to give the listener something to sink their teeth into. The first two songs shift gears into more of a technical black metal style similar to Deathspell Omega. While the central part of these passages is repeated, every cycle is given color from an extra layer of morphing guitars and wild fills from drummer Luka Govednik. In particular, Govednik’s cymbal work adds splashes of energy and rhythmic hooks as these passages stretch out. The closing track takes a similar approach to provide a longer repeated segment, but it hones in a tight stop-start pattern that’s more reminiscent of Gojira than black or death metal.

What makes this flailing death-chop to the dome all the more impactful is the thick and hefty production. These drums are more thunderous than a quality set of thighs and the guitars cut through either side of your headphones to keep their dizzying technicality all the more disorienting.

Atræ Bilis is a band that seems to get its influences from brutal death metal as much as it does more avant-garde subgenres but never submerges itself entirely into either realm. Instead, they take tenets of each and merge them to create a jarring sound laden with mini-hooks and still manage to give you a beating to lock into at just the right time.

For those looking for dissonant jagged whirlwind tunes that can put some bounce in your step, look no further than Apexapien.

I just read back through this and realized how weirdly sexual much of this is, and for that, I apologize to Atræ Bilis. That being said, I request that some acrobatic and adventurous couple use Apexapien as the soundtrack to their afternoon delight to justify my approach here.

Posted by Spencer Hotz

Admirer of the weird, the bizarre and the heavy, but so are you. Why else would you be here?

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