Atomwinter’s Catacombs opens with thirty seconds of dark, foreboding cello – this sets the scene rather nicely. Catacombs (as the name suggests) is a dark and unsettling record steeped in the blackened death metal realm. Unfortunately, however, the album struggles to experiment between tracks, making for a repetitive listen.

As can be expected with blackened death metal, Atomwinter are aggressive, dark and sometimes good fun. “Necromancer”, which throws higher pitched screams alongside the familiar deep death growls, is played at a chunkier, slightly slower pace than the rest of the record and is all told a great song. This is one track that will get your head moving. The whole record builds itself around solid riffs; highlights include the thrash-inspired one in the title track, “Catacombs” showcasing that the band doesn’t only produce pure chunky death metal material. Meanwhile, “Dark Messiah” features a riff that swirls, snarling alongside some impressive drum work, “Funeral of Flesh”, meanwhile, opens with a riff that would make Tony Iommi proud. There’s plenty to enjoy here – that is, until repetition kicks in.

Each song opens tremendously well, with a strong riff and a nice heavy sound, but as soon as the vocals (which start with an “ooh” every single time, I swear) crop up, the pace tends to increase (“Gathering of the Undead” is a notable slower exception). As the speed increases, each track becomes less interesting and they all meld into one. For the most part, you’ll be wishing away the dull higher pace, which decimates any of the fun riffs that came just a few seconds earlier. A little more experimentation or use of that kick-ass cello would have made for a more interesting listen. Hell, I would have loved for there to be a guitar solo or two thrown into the mix aside from the short one in “Sadistic Intent”. Each track follows the same formula, and it lets the dark brutality of the record down.

The dark sounds Atomwinter bring to the table in Catacombs are enjoyable, but it becomes bogged down in rigid structure, making for a disappointingly repetitive record. The cello intro and the cool riffs that begin each song are largely left by the wayside for sheer, unimaginative pace. Listening to any track from the record is fine when separated from the whole, but the whole album sadly drags. If Atomwinter work on adding a little extra spice to their sound via more guitar solos, atmospherics and differing structures every now and then, they’d be stellar.

Catacombs Track Listing:

01. Intro
02. Carved in Stone
03. Morbid Lies
04. Dark Messiah
05. Ancient Rites
06. Gathering of the Undead
07. Catacombs
08. Necromancer
09. Funeral of Flesh
10. Sadistic Intent

Run Time: 39:58
Release Date: February 9, 2018

Check out a stream of the song “Necromancer” here.