After sharing a string of singles and jumping on some stellar show line-ups, ATLVS appeased their fans by releasing their debut EP, Memoir last month. I was keen to see what the quintet of Jesse Buckingham (vocals), Steve Ljiljak (guitar), Nick Fitzgerald (guitar), Matthew Borthwick (bass/vocals), and Nick Clavarino (drums) had up their sleeve.
Beginning with opening track “Epiphany”, I was struck by choppy and tight rhythms before plunging into the thick of the song. Raw vocals piqued my interest quickly, and I appreciated the way the spikes of frustration were palpable. There’s sick riffs with the verses, and I liked the searching nature of the more tender or vulnerable moments.
Thematically “Epiphany” seems to be about wanting something more and needing to be the one that makes the change. I felt the authenticity of sentiment with this, and appreciated the importance of this message. The urgency of Jesse’s vocals hit home powerfully.
One thing that unfortunately bugged me throughout was the drum tones. I’m no producer, but there was something so tight about the beats that had me uncertain if it was guitar or drums creating the rhythm. I felt that the meaning would have hit home even harder with some grounded fullness from the drums.
“Insinuate” had me crave the same oomph and strength courtesy of beats. The song seems to reflect a situation with the damage made to a person’s mental health by a backstabbing ‘friend’, and a subsequent attempt to get through to them. This kind of sentiment needs some power to go with it, and it just wasn’t there for me. The sense of surrender at the breakdown really needed some weight too, to add to the gravity of feeling.
The layering of vocals worked well to reflect the isolating cage of inner battle, and I also appreciated the momentary spotlight on vocals alone. What sounded like screaming in an empty room was great, suiting the ‘Can you hear me? Do you feel any remorse?’ kind of vibe. I enjoyed how the vocal rhythms worked through this track, even if the chorus didn’t really grab me. I was left a little surprised how the end of “Insinuate” just faded out.
“Yvth” revealed itself as an instrumental track, where sounds of breathing and talking are edited and manipulated and melded with guitar and other instrumentation. While I enjoyed the guitar tones and the feel of the bass, I was left wondering where the track was going. I did appreciate an eventual atmosphere of uneasiness, like reaching a point of making a decision. Again I wanted this to hit harder by way of feel and strength.
“You said the cure was you then you abandoned me”
I’d already taken time with “Love” when it was released as a single. I appreciated the fullness of sound from the song’s introduction and how the gravelly vocals suit the betrayal that’s expressed lyrically. Thematically, it’s more love-hate than love; a toxic connection causing grief. I love the rawness, and where the spacious moments shine a light on drawing a line of ‘Enough’ in the situation. But in all of the toxicity and themes of finality, the chorus felt far too nice and pretty, and the beats too weak. The contrast was jarring.
“Love”‘s lyrics seem honest/authentic though, and I liked the reference to the fact that the protagonist is just as bad as the other. There’s something about this self-reflection that feels more real than just writing a song about how shitty a lover was.
Musically the riffs of the second verse fit well with the state of conflict and breaking free. The space made by the breakdowns suited the song, and the softer and more thoughtful sounds at the bridge felt good too. I appreciated the bass tones and that the buried vocals matched the haunted state of mind. A ‘loaded’ version of the chorus added some grit that I craved. I wasn’t entirely sure why the fade-out ending was as long as it was.
The fifth track “Mercury” includes a feature from Jamie McLees of Lotus Eater, which is very cool! It seems like ATLVS kicked things up a notch with this addition, perhaps, because even from early on, “Mercury” seemed to have more hype, strength, and fire than we’ve heard so far. It could have easily been a different band to the rest of the EP.
“Mercury” features interesting skin-crawling notes and effects, and the rhythms feel good to sink into. The heavy rains down in this song and there’s not a ‘pretty chorus’ to be found. Cavernous and furious of sound, even the drums sound satisfyingly fuller on “Mercury”, which punches from end to end, feeling tense and solid. Somewhere buried in there, a synthy melody tries to make its way through.
Like a changing of a TV channel, we slip straight into “Sick”. Fitting its title, “Sick” comes across like an eclectic collection of sounds, as though it’s purging everything. The lyrics ooze this same vibe, feeling like an attempt to break out of the same old shit. Noticing that I’m not complaining about the drum tones and wondering if I’ve become used to them, I realise they do sound better; rounder and fuller.
The clear and sung chorus of “Sick” just doesn’t fit right for me though. It does talk about clearing one’s head, so I guess clarity fits, but its calmness in amongst the metaphorical spewing just doesn’t make sense. It feels more like a cerebral decision as opposed to an organic one and doesn’t feel ‘sick’ or frustrated. Having raw vocals interspersed with the chorus at the end make more sense to me.
Another thing to note with “Sick” is that around the 1:42 mark I noticed a drop in volume, having me literally check to make sure I hadn’t hit the volume button accidentally. It feels like it shrinks inward before coming back out again in the instrumental section that follows. Perhaps to have it hit harder? I’m not sure.
I’ve seen ATLVS live before and they kill it. They’re strong, cohesive, and come across as extremely talented musicians. It’s a tad frustrating that this hasn’t been captured in recorded versions of their songs, as I feel they deserve some recognition and attention.
Memoir as a whole seems to be about the shedding of the old, or at least attempts to do so. It captures confrontations with the self and with others, in trying to step out of damaging and toxic patterns and forward into something more. I thoroughly enjoyed the themes and the lyrics of Memoir, but it seemed like some of the ideas didn’t land as hard sonically as they could have.
There’s a lot of ideas and potential here, and I’m keen to see this honed and refined further. I’m ready for ATLVS to blow me away with their next release!
Lyrical themes felt honest and important and there were moments that were felt in terms of emotion behind them. Impressive instrumentation, such as intricate riffs.
I wanted more weight behind the drumming, and for the choruses to feel more cohesive with the rest of the song. I wanted these great themes to knock me down from all angles.