Atargatis - Nova 3/5

Reviewed: 11-23-07


1. Intro
2. Ebon queen
3. Frozen innocence
4. Riven inside
5. Stars are falling
6. Crucified
7. Green lake's ground
8. Fever of temptation
9. When the ice breaks
10. Marching of the fey
11. Firebird
12. Deliverance

Sometimes as a metal fan I find myself wondering if I am becoming pretentious. When I find myself frowning on certain Gothenburg metal bands for being too melodic, or power metal acts for not having enough riffs among other things, it sometimes does cross my mind that maybe just maybe I'm developing into a crusty old elitist.

There is one particular subgenre that I often find myself berating for its increasingly commercial leanings, and it takes sharp reminders that are provided by segments of the CD that is under review here to put my mind at ease that I am at least listening with an unbiased ear.

That subgenre would be gothic metal, or to be more specific, female fronted gothic metal. Increasingly in recent times it seems to my ears that bands pegged under this particular heading are nothing more than pop rock with a slightly thick guitar tone. Minimal riffs, zero lead guitar and lifeless drumming simply building a foundation for an attractive young woman to sing some sugary choruses. A certain formerly-respectable Dutch band's recent output certainly falls into this category if you ask my opinion.

And yet I on occasion find myself wondering if I am just being too stuffy, and expecting things I shouldn't expect from the subgenre, or that I am just imagining crucial differences between the likes of Epica and their more commercial counterparts.

To finally get around to the CD I'm supposed to be reviewing here, it can be said that Atargatis' 2nd full-length CD 'Nova' shows both sides of the coin, and while it thankfully stays on the credible side often enough, it is something of a relief from a reviewers point of view to hear the good and bad elements of the style collected together.

In this sense, 'Nova' is something of a curious collection. They are fronted by Stephanie Luzie, now the only founder left in the band, and her voice is clearly the main focus of proceedings, and the band seem to be at present sitting at the crossroad between powerful symphonic gothic metal and tamer, pop-centric rock music.

The first full song, "Ebon queen" gives something of a false hope for the CD, driven by proper guitar riffs and sustained double-bass drumming. The low-pitched, slightly hoarse vocals of bass player Lord Lornhold provide a nice counterpoint to Luzie's, semi-operatic tones and the song is a dynamic and energetic opener.

Unfortunately, things take a bit of a dive for a few songs into more obviously commercial territory, particularly on the 'obvious single' "Riven", which is very bland and chorus driven, and even features the obligatory guest male vocalist to sing a verse and provide backing vocals on the chorus. Similarly, the song "Crucified", a cover version originally done by Army of Lovers, isn't given much of the full metal treatment, and its pop heritage remains on full display.

It is a shame that Atargatis have chosen to bow to this aspect of the style on occasion, as when they are playing full-on metal songs the results are often highly satisfactory. The CD picks up strongly towards the end, particularly on the "Marching of the fay", with its power metallish, almost Rhapsody-like chorus chant, and the fast and aggressive "Firebird", which features some growled male vocals that compliment the song nicely.

So while I couldn't completely endorse 'Nova' to those who only like their gothic metal to be more guitar driven, those who found themselves rolling their eyes at the opening paragraphs of this review will most likely be far more impressed. Certainly as a compare and contrast exercise it provides an interesting listen (and at least goes to show beyond any real doubt that there is a serious difference between the likes of Epica and Random Eyes), but for my own tastes it is too uneven a CD to come strongly recommended.




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