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Ataraxie : Slow Transcending Agony (Reissue)

The remastered reissue of Ataraxie's debut is an essential album.

Everything is cyclic. It goes around, it comes around, even in the quiet backwaters of anticommercialism that hallmark the underground music scene. You can tell by the way that, even here, we are beginning to see a steady trickle of re-releases of genre classics: not just the simple eventual label interest in picking up a DIY self-release that's finally come to their attention, but full-blown remasters, discography collections and unearthed bonus materials being packaged up as definitive editions of long-since out-of-print gems.

Such a one is 'Slow Transcending Agony', seeing the light of day again through original label - and the one which has stuck with them ever since - Weird Truth. The original release had two pressings, each of 1000 copies: a few are still obtainable at not-unreasonable money, but this offers just a little more. Remastered, repackaged, and with a newly-recorded bonus track (officially unveiling a triple-guitar line-up for the first time), it's good value for anyone who hasn't previously invested in the French Death/Doomsters official debut, and for completists and collectors alike.

The digipack sleeve is a slightly softened take on the original artwork (the original booklet, reproduced in full, is included as an insert) which is, actually, also a pretty good description of the remastering. It's not a massive change to the original sound, probably the most noticeable change being a subtle clean-up of the introduction to 'Step Into The Gloom', but it has just taken the roughest edges off the sound and lowered the peak volumes by a hair. You'd have to listen to them side-by-side to really pick up where the discreet polish has been added. Which means it's basically the same collection of massive, ultra-bleak, uncompromisingly gloomy monoliths described in our original review.

Any fan of extreme Doom should, by now, have encountered Ataraxie, or the sister-project Funeralium by now, so there is a limited usefulness in reiterating my colleague Dominik's description of the album. To bring it up to date, however: without doubt, 'Slow Transcending Agony' wears its 'classic' status well, sounding just as timelessly seminal as it did back in 2005. Ataraxie may have since gravitated toward longer, heavier, even more extreme sounds, and Funeralium even more so, but there is still something very perfect about the debut's stripped-down synergy between instruments and voice, driving an unadorned yet immensely melancholy spike of grief into the listener.

I'm often in two minds about bonus tracks added way after an album's completion - the CD revolution was responsible for plenty of completely unsuitable abominations being unearthed and used to spoil perfectly good records. The cover of diSEMBOWELMENT's 'The Tree Of Life And Death' included here is, at least, not one of those cutting-room-floor refugees: it was destined for this release, and a quite logical follow-on from the comparatively pacy closer 'Another Day of Despondency'. Largely faithful to the Australians' blueprint, this interpretation scores pretty well for eliminating much of the tinniness - particularly in the drums - which let the original down somewhat, and - along with the wall of guitars and moments where Jonathan's distinctive shrieking wail cuts loose - gives it the real heaviness and punch the track deserves. Whether you feel the album needed any extras or not, it's a good choice for inclusion, and an interesting comparison between then and now.

So, there are now 1000 more chances to own this classic release in circulation. My advice would be to snap one up, while you can: it's still, quite simply, an essential purchase for any Doom collection.

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Reviewer's rating: 9.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Step Into The Gloom
2. Funeral Hymn
3. L’Ataraxie
4. Slow Transcending Agony
5. Another Day Of Despondency
6. The Tree Of Life And Death (diSEMBOWELMENT cover)

Duration : Approx. 63 minutes

Visit the Ataraxie bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-07-27 by Mike Liassides
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