Why Are You Sleeping On: Atena?
The constantly evolving soundscape of metal can prove to be a lot for most people to navigate. In this new series you’ll be introduced to bands you may have overlooked, as well as offered a deeper appreciation for some you haven’t taken the full dive with, yet. So whether your tastes are djent, doom, or melodic, there’s no reason to be asleep.
There’s been a void of original content coming from Hollywood for decades now, but if anyone reading this happens to have connections to the industry, let them know that the next great, heartrending masterpiece has already been composed by Norwegian metalcore savants, Atena.
Beginning with their 2015 release, Shades of Black Won’t Bring Her Back (my pick for one of the best album titles, ever) Atena has embarked on the journey of telling us a story crafted to lyrically horrify and engage us sonically, as well as carve their individuality as artists.
After contacting the band for this piece, they told me they’ve “spent six years writing a concept-story through three albums about a dysfunctional family and how it tragically collapsed on itself.” And their method of storytelling is frightening. Atena is not for the faint of heart.
Their trademark iconography of the cross suspended in a larger, inverted one should be enough of a warning, but this isn’t god-hating thrash, or anything like the doom- and black metal their region of the world is better known for. Atena approach their unpredictable, controlled chaos sound with all the confidence of your favorite rapper. If they decide to add bone-chilling operatics in one track, be prepared to be pleasantly off guard when vocalist Jacob Skogli belts his guts out over a hip-hop drum pattern on the next. So, why are you still sleeping on Atena?
Their song Divorce begins abruptly, like a sinkhole leading to hell, taking the viewpoint of a child expressing rage at the parent’s split. The song’s structure, though, is the perfect example of Atena’s skill. Dramatically-tuned guitars (the kind that musicians reading will know take more than a few patches) propel you forward, and then, just thirty-two seconds in, they guide you down another time signature, followed by a blast beat, only to lead us to a melancholy voice without brutality before pounding it back down again. You’re in for a ride. With similarities to the aggression of Emmure, and the progressive precision of Architects, Atena sets themselves apart through their ambition to create something we haven’t quite heard out of the field of metalcore.
On 2020’s Drowning Regret & Lungs Filled with Water (another top album title pick) the band ascended. The track +47 3029 isn’t a song at all. It’s two minutes and forty-seven seconds of a young girl calling her mother, who won’t or can’t answer the phone, and leaving her messages about how much she misses her over a bed of Spielberg movie-worthy strings. If you don’t remove this from your playlist I’m guaranteeing a crying session. The arc of the album details the hopelessness of being a single mother in an abusive relationship.
Jacob is accompanied by fellow storytellers Vebjørn Iversen on guitar, Ulrik Linstad on bass, and Fredrik Kåsin playing drums. It can be easy to miss the poetry of their lyrics behind such pummeling music, as in Done with the Darkness off of 2017’s Possessed: “I found the real lies, laying the basis for real lives/ Deceitful identities built on the fake, disrupting your mind in the world of the snakes.”
Their newest single, Flash!-THUNDER marks a new direction for the band, now finished with their trilogy, and finally catching some of the overdue praise by reaching over a million streams for their cult hit “Death is All I Think About.” This is the sound of metalcore’s future. Immerse yourself; pick any album from any point. And then spread the word.