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The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
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Traditional Doom/Rock with strong references to Saint Vitus and Black Sabbath and elements from Hard rock and Doom/Death - very basic, grooving an...
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Automaton : Talos

The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.

Hardcore D&D fans may remember Talos described, rather puzzlingly, as a 'triple iron golem', back in - iirc - the original Deities And Demigods hardback. Old movie fans may have a slightly better picture from Don Chaffey's 1963 Jason And The Argonauts, where Ray Harryhausen animated him as a huge bronze living statue guarding the Isle of, well, Bronze. The truth, if there is an absolute truth in original mythology, is a little bit of both - he was, supposedly, a metal giant protecting Crete, and specifically Queen Europa, circling the island three times daily with a remit to destroy all potential threats.

Greece's Automaton, for their second full-length outing, reimagine their namesake archetype as awakening in the modern era to fight injustice and protect the innocent. It's an image which somehow conjures up images of Godzilla - or, probably more appositely in this case, Mechagodzilla - stamping all over an egg-box model of Tokyo in an attempt to save it from a variety of equally huge alien foes. Perhaps fortunately, though, there's a better musical than film history to draw on - classic Rock fans have Blue Öyster Cult's many versions of the track to fall back on, Doom fans may, of course, prefer Psychedelic Witchcraft's cover.

If I can digress slightly - for many years extreme Greek Metal seemed largely focused on either purist Black or Death roots, with Doom getting very little of a look-in. But, looking at the success of bands like Rotting Christ you'd have to say that they really did nail those genres, in both technical and visceral ways. Well, guess what, those bands who did want to turn their focus towards a more Doom-based foundation also found ways to make it work. I'd quote the likes of Immensity, Ocean Of Grief and, yes, Automaton as being in the vanguard of that expansion, each in their own different style. In this case, if you're already familiar with the excellent debut 'Echoes Of Mount Ida', it's a core of Doom/Sludge/Post-Metal but one which includes all sorts of assimilated Space/Drone/Psych influences.

So, 'Talos'. Well, I've got the rather sexy clear vinyl LP, and it sounds absolutely amazing. But it also sounds equally amazing in digital format, on headphones - if you're looking to pick out intimate detail, rather than enjoy a broader analogue wash - the band really don't put a single foot wrong throughout. Every drumbeat, every guitar note, every vocal interjection is placed with a weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection. This is a work I would consider, above all else, to have pure craftmanship at its heart, and one which realises that in a beautifully precise combination of construction, arrangement and recording. Perhaps the exemplar of that would be 'Talos Awakens', which blends in a vocal and musical guest performance by Psarantonis, the legendary Cretan lyra player, where the haunting, sawing sound of that instrument fits perfectly into a spacy, Floydian progression that still never loses its heavy or doomy appeal.

As befits a conceptual piece, the album does map out a progression, rising turbulence arcing steadily towards the peak of energetic assault at 'The Punisher', then subsiding slowly into a tranquil acoustic exit. More cinematic soundscape than narrative, the lyrics - delivered in a mixture of English and Greek, and frequently harshly indecipherable - are terse allegorical sketches which seem of secondary importance to the textural ebb and flow of the largely instrumental music. Notably percussion-heavy, at times the drumming is intense enough that it sounds like they have two complete drumkits on board - and given that there is a guest drummer in the credits, it's quite likely that's the case.

I did struggle a little with the lengthy 'speciesism' sample running through second track 'Giant Of Steel'. For a start, the underlying notion is a risibly unscientific one, ascribing apex predator behavioural mechanisms to a de facto deliberate form of discrimination. And, secondly, the pretend-Cockney speaker, who sounds like a bargain-basement Phil Daniels imitator, absolutely sets my teeth on edge. However, neither of those things contradict the premise of the album, nor objectively interfere with its unfolding progress, so it's very much a personal thing whether you want to pick up on them or not.

'Talos' may be a conceptual venture, but in all honesty I'd consider its appeal to lie more with the execution than the concept. That may partly be my fault, in that I've never read the inspirational source (the novel Talos, Terror From The Past, by Stylianos Moysedes), but I guess I still feel that it falls short of giving you any obvious point of devastation: the image I get from it is more akin to the tidal cycle of Rush's 'Natural Science' than the apocalyptic extinction of Solstorm's 'The Carrington Event'. But since both of those chart the self-correcting, sometimes punishing, forces and agencies of nature, you could argue they're equally valid windows into what a re-visitation by Talos could bring. Essentially, it seems Automaton have given the listener a broad space in which to visualise their soundscapes, and the superb delivery enables that to perfection.

It's taken a long time and a lot of words to finally conclude this is most definitely a worthy successor to their debut, and one which justifies every moment of the long period spent preparing it. And just like its predecessor, 'Talos' has a certain, hard to quantify, unique magic about it - it may have significant roots in the line drawn from Neurosis onwards, but this is a band perfectly willing to be both earnest and playful within and without those boundaries. It comes thoroughly recommended to anyone who likes their Doom to be daringly creative.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Trapped In Darkness
2. Giant Of Steel
3. Automaton Marching
4. Ο Τάλως Ξυπνά (Talos Awakens)
5. The Punisher
6. Submerged Again
7. Epilogue

Duration : Approx. 49 minutes

Visit the Automaton bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-04-21 by Mike Liassides
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