Ataraxia: atmospheric black metal promising serenity and calm with radiant and lively music

Autumn Nostalgie, Ataraxia, Slovakia, self-released CD digipak / cassette (2021) // Germany, Northern Silence Productions, NSP225 CD digipak / cassette (2021)

Slovakian-based Autumn Nostalgie might have a small discography of just two albums, “Esse Est Percipi” released in 2020 and the recent “Ataraxia”, but the band itself has changed considerably between those two releases. Originally founded in 2010 as a solo post-BM / ambient project by Almásy Gergely in Šamorín, a town in western Slovakia near the Hungarian border, Autumn Nostalgie added drummer József Nagy as a permanent member in 2021 and as a result the band’s music has shifted to a more highly melodic and powerful atmospheric BM style.

The new style is evident on the first proper song “Alámerülés” which has a lively, energetic feel, a sunny mood and a rock’n’roll groove. Some things do remain the same, notably A.G.’s harsh ragged vocal, and the philosophical / existential themes from “Esse Est Percipi” have carried over as well. The ambient elements of Autumn Nostalgie come in handy as background tremolo guitar drone wash which give depth and warmth to the powerful riffs and a contrast to occasional piano solo melodies. The only downside to this new-found style is A.G.’s vocals: caught between delivering the dense Hungarian-language lyrics and keeping up with the force and variety of the music, the singing comes across as a flat chant and emotion tends to be restricted to occasional roars and screams.

Mixing short ambient instrumental mood pieces with distinct self-contained songs boasting catchy riffs and solid rhythms, the album maintains a steady and varied flow of music and golden radiant ambience. The shorter songs seem to run out of gas and stop, giving an impression of being half-finished and losing some of the energy that should have gone into the next song. Perhaps if they’d been longer with changes, as in tempo, key or music, as on longer tracks like “Memento Vivere” and the title track, the short songs might have been much improved but at the cost of sounding similar and losing their distinctness. The best tracks on the album end up being the long songs “Memento Vivere” and “Ataraxia” though “The Abyss of Realization” makes a strong case for being a highly atmospheric and radiantly evocative piece, at least before it suddenly dies down. The ambient instrumental tracks are lovely sonic paintings of melancholy, longing and nostalgia, and perhaps even expressions of hope though they don’t go much beyond creating the one mood or emotional state.

Even as it is, this second album is a very solid atmospheric BM work with as much vitality and power as it has a definite sound of warmth and golden glitter. The album has confidence and direction, and once it achieves a goal or a certain state of mind, it moves on. (Though sometimes, yes, I’d like it to linger a bit and finish off those short songs!) Listening to this album over and over leaves a positive and uplifting feel, even the serenity that the album’s title promises in spite of its genre’s reputation for darkness and unease.

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