San Diego's The Atomic Bomb Audition is an aptly-named band. Their sound is dynamic and expansive, at times hitting with the devastation of nuclear war, at others drifting through the eerie serenity undoubtedly following it. Their latest record – 2010's Roots into the See – is no exception, a mini-epic that's at times explosive, at others ethereal. It's a prime slice of cinematic heavy metal that lashes out at the external world without losing its sense of self-reflection.
The fact Roots into the See offers only three songs means there aren't many chances for The Atomic Bomb Audition to lure new listeners into permanent adulation. Such a truncated track list seems like a bold move, but the band has a knack for organic song-writing that ensures each song is delicately-crafted and consistently interesting. Each tune ebbs and flows down a predetermined path, some quickly, some not so much. It's an engaging experience given the group packs entire musical journeys into each tune.
The album's opening tune, "Limit," functions as a brief burst of rage. Short and cathartic, it initially douses listeners with so much vitriol it's like showering in lit gasoline. Its rumbling guitars and abrasive shrieks gradually shy away, replaced by more melodic riffing and desperate, emotive howls that dive deep into the heartstrings. Once there, The Atomic Bomb Audition rediscovers their aggression and ends the tune with spastic, slamming guitar chords.
A lull in the violence occurs with "Horizons," a jam that begins with somber, drifting guitar notes and soon grows into something much more massive. Wavering melodies wash over eardrums, gradually setting the stage for tumultuous rhythm section tremors and seismic guitar riffs. Everything builds into a zenith of trembling music and angelic crooning, only to come crashing down into forlorn guitar chords. It's the first of two clever twists, the second being a psychedelic guitar solo followed by a series of thundering riffs and majestic, bellowed sing-alongs. It isn't easy moving musical mountains, but "Horizons" proves The Atomic Bomb Audition have mastered the soft-to-heavy style.
The grand finale on Roots into the See is "Bas," a behemoth track that starts quiet and ends earth shattering. It begins with a gentle hum, only to flower into a dream-like ballad that never sacrifices sonic density. It's a ponderous but peaceful affair, a surreal quest through ghostly vocals and hypnotic guitars and keyboards. When the band lets loose with some tectonic grooves and churning percussion, the result is an ending sprawling in size and sublime in execution.
The songs comprising this excellent record form a verifiable trio of terror. The Atomic Bomb Audition have fused film score scope with heavy metal marauding, the culmination being a gripping ride through vistas of sound. Roots into the See worms its way into the mind's eye and stays there, lingering long after its final echoes have been left behind.
Mark Hensch is the editor of Thrashpit. His writing also appears on his Heavy Metal Hensch blog at The Washington Times.