When we talk of potential, there’s always an inherent back-handed compliment aspect to it, right? “It’s fine, but might be pretty good someday,” is what potential often really means. That’s absolutely not the case for the debut full-length from Scottish progressive post-rock act Atlas:Empire.
To be sure: based on the elements already at play, this is a band who could be every bit as great as acts like Thrice and Black Peaks (who might have released one of the best prog albums of the year); however, it’s very important to state very clearly that The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet is a hell of an initial statement.
The band’s shapeshifting style morphs around a tiny bit throughout, as certain tracks lean harder on math rock, post-hardcore, post-rock, or prog elements. Those flavors certainly–and fairly–place Atlas:Empire squarely in the U.K. scene; the record’s mix of heady atmosphere and burly riffs has become a staple of the best of the British Isles, and it’s safe to say we can call Atlas:Empire on the cusp of that label.
The best of the bunch is the astoundingly gorgeous “The Entire History of You” (a Black Mirror reference?), which is a gutting piece of meaty post-rock. It’s the rare example of a nearly nine-minute tune that warrants an immediate replay. “The Moment We Were Exploding” is also quite explosive with a nice bunch of guitar melodies. The entire record is wrapped together quite nicely and has a neat sci-fi theme regarding our over-reliance on technology and the issues that come with it.
Ultimately, Altas:Empire succeed on the strength of their musicianship, songwriting, and the lasting impact of the songs themselves. Sure, a couple of the 10 tracks stutter to their ends, but this is the result of an excellent band finding its best foot forward rather than a series of stumbling blocks. Those looking for bands who can make heady music surprisingly catchy and fun would be wise to keep an ear or two attuned to this Scottish act.