After three years of silence, Tennessee based one man project Vials of Wrath is back with an EP titled Ataraxia.
According to Wikipedia, “Ataraxia (ἀταραξία, literally, “unperturbedness,” generally translated as “imperturbability,” “equanimity,” or “tranquillity”) is a Greek philosophical term used to describe a lucid state of robust equanimity characterized by ongoing freedom from distress and worry.”
Lyrically, Ataraxia is a mediation on nostalgia, everyday struggles and the longing for that very equanimity expressed in the title. Musically, it sits comfortably between the stylistic fields of ambient black metal and blackgaze. Being a part of the Appalachian black metal scene, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Vials of Wrath also incorporates a great deal of bluegrass/folk elements, acoustic guitars and strings into his songs. In comparison to his previous works, the folk elements are even more prominent on this EP, and the whole record has a more relaxed, almost dreamy vibe to it.
The opening track starts with a folky intro and develops into a laid-back, melancholic sounding song that soon delves into blackgaze/post-rock territory, reminiscent of Alcest or even Deafheaven, but with a folksy twist. Only on the second track “Hands to the Plow” does the music get a little more aggressive and fast-paced with galloping blast beats and melodious Drudkh-ian riffs. The final track is a beautiful acoustic folk inspired piece, varnished with field recordings of singing birds and burbling water – a quiescent track that may be seen as the achievement of ataraxia in the cosmos of the EP.
Dempsey Mills, the man behind Vials of Wrath, once again managed to create a touching and beautiful record with Ataraxia, that fits perfectly into the modern blackgaze scene, but also stands out from it due to the incorporation of ambient and folk elements and a slightly darker choice of tone than what we’ve come to expect from the genre. In a way, this EP feels like a bridge between the folk influenced Appalachian black metal style and the modern sounds of blackgaze, combining the best of the two worlds into a unique package.
With a playing time of only 19 minutes spanning over three tracks, Ataraxia is a rather short affair, which is the only real negative thing I can say about it. I think that the songs on this EP could have benefitted from an overall longer playing time. Especially in comparison to Vials of Wrath’s 2015 full length Days Without Names, Ataraxia feels a little short cut and leaves the listener longing for more. According to a recently published Noisey article we can expect the third full length album from the band later this year, so that longing might be satisfied sooner than later.
Whether you are a fan of blackgaze in the vein of Alcest or Deafheaven, Appalachian black metal acts like Deafest, or any kind of atmospheric, nature inspired music, you definitely shouldn’t miss out on this EP and make sure to keep an eye on future releases from the band!
Ataraxia was self-released August 21st and can be streamed and purchased from the band’s Bandcamp page.
Check out the band’s Facebook page as well!