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Monday, March 29, 2010

AtmOsfear

Zenith (ProgRock Records)

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Progressive metal’s pretentious reputation won’t be spared with Zenith, the third album from AtmOsfear. Indeed, the 71-minute disc contains only six songs, including the four-part finale “Spiral of Pain,” which clocks in at almost half an hour. But the German quintet—not to be confused with the U.K.-based jazz/funk band of the same name from the late ’70s—also provides a prime example of just how melodic and moving progressive metal can be these days.

Nowhere is this more evident than on “Spiral of Pain,” which effortlessly takes listeners on an emotional spin. The seven-and-a-half-minute instrumental “Reawakening” begins with a lone piano solo and then turns ominous, segueing perfectly into the album’s darkest piece, the nasty, minor-key “Scum of Society.” The weakest track, “Generations,” is plagued with gruff vocals bordering on death-metal grunts that detract from the rest of the album’s classiness.