Ever since discovering Ataraxy in 2018 with the help of Dark Descent Records (once again, shout out to Denver/Colorado metal and its institutions), three things became apparent:
- My love for death-doom is as deep and cavernous as those bands’ sounds
- Spanish metal? Hell yeah!
- I will eventually spell this band’s name as ‘Ataxary’, which isn’t a word (fair warning to my fellow editors as well)
Spain’s not the first place I’d expect to hear a band like Ataraxy, but when When All Hopes Fades dropped four years ago, it put them on the map for me personally. In case you didn’t know, ataraxy is a state of serene calmness – also not the kind of name you’d expect for many metal bands. But hey, the name fits, as they’re a cross-section of metal’s heavy proclivities, though slowed to a crawl innate to doom. Double kick drums prevail, but usually stamped out in more deliberate rhythms rather than hammering away at your coccyx like the ass-kickery of death metal often demands.
The Last Mirror is more of the same, yes, where atmosphere is king, but it feels more dangerous than previous efforts. Dangerous in the sense that a journey to an unknown realm is dangerous; teeming with hidden perils and stalking predators, corporeal and spiritual alike. The movements Ataraxy play with – shifting from blistered tantrums of heft to calculated and darkened slogs through something truly primal and nether – surely tell an uneven, contorted story, one that feels grand, prophesied, and doomed from the start (in the grim thematic sense, though obviously the sonic definition fits as well).
It’s also just… fun – the rolling drums and massive riffs in the middle of “Visions of Absence” will provide proof enough of that. Often you’ll hear cleaner, reverbed guitar melded with their buzzsaw-esque counterparts. This two-halves-of-a-whole approach is one of the best things Ataraxy bring to the sacrificial table because it’s not your simple heavy/light combo heard in most metal. It all plays to that duality approach the band have been keenly adept at for years now. In one song, maybe “The Bell That Constantly Sounds”, it’s common to feel penetrating feelings of dejection and flooded with malaise, then beaten in with higher tempos that tickle your lizard brain; hissing optional, though appreciated.
There isn’t much in the way of surprises on The Last Mirror, and that’s fine. It’s death-doom through and through, and it’s probably best if
Ataxary Ataraxy stick to that. It’s an identity at this point, one reinforced by the likes of “Decline” with its rollicking deathed-up intro – it’s the most energetic the band get on here. Or how about “Silence”, which is far and away from that very thing, action-packed with trudging, haunting, almost muggy ambience, like you were dropped into catacombs to fend for your life against reanimated bodies.
I won’t lie: none of this is particularly groundbreaking, but I think the point Ataraxy seek to make isn’t one of revelation, but one of refinement. The amalgamation of death and doom metal isn’t particularly new or untread, and while I’ll always have my favorites, I must appreciate those that keep the sound ironically alive and thriving. This is a band that seems to weaponize ennui and package it into a multifaceted trip of wicked proportions. It starts with the instrumental intro “Presages” and goes to the bitter end of “A Mirror Reflects Our Fate” – always uneasy, never unworthy of your time.
Good bands do one of two things typically: do it different or do it better. Ataraxy have always had their feet planted firmly in the latter at the very least. The Last Mirror shows them doing even themselves better than before, as the writing and execution has improved in the dwindling years since their last effort. When you live in a dying world, there’s only one thing to do: spin a record like this and decay along with the rest of it, for it is truly the heavy soundtrack to the listlessness that fills us all.