Demo:listen: Blood Atonement

Based in Seattle and comprised of a trio of long-time friends, Blood Atonement stand apart from the crowd of their raw black metal contemporaries in the most natural of ways: They sound like no one else.

Thin Lizzy and Blue Oyster Cult are my two all-time favorite bands and I probably listen to them more than I listen to anything else,” admits Blood Atonement’s guitarist/vocalist MF. “While I don’t necessarily think either group has had a direct influence on Blood Atonement they’ve definitely impacted how I approach music. I’ve never had any formal training and most of my style emerged from trying to (poorly) emulate Emperor and Morbid Angel as a teenager. There’s even a few riffs on the demo that are reworked riffs I wrote as a 16-year-old.”

MF, along with drummer JD and bassist MPJ, formed Blood Atonement roughly a year ago. MF and JD played together before in a band called Divinorum, but Blood Atonement started out with MPJ on drums.

“JD and I were in a band called Divinorum together 6+ years ago,” explains MF. “We were both distracted with other projects and I was still attempting to flesh out my voice musically so things never quite emerged. The three of us have been close friends for a decade, our past bands consistently played together. Initially, MPJ and I began writing as Blood Atonement in late 2015 with her on drums. Knee problems were preventing her from playing intensive metal drumming at a level she’s comfortable with so she bought a bass and with no previous experience learned to play it in less than a year. In summer 2017, the three of us came together and began writing the demo.”Inspiration for the lyrics and the band name itself came from “strange religious traditions, cult-like mentalities and the raw, untamed human spirit,” according to MF.

“For several years now I’ve wanted to do a band that lyrically explores the religions and cults that have emerged in the western United States in the past 200 years,” MF relates. “A lot of history in a relatively short amount of time. Blood Atonement was an early LDS practice where bloodshed was the only want to repent for particularly flagrant sins and something some distant ancestors of mine may have been involved with.”To write the demo, MF would take riffs in to show MPJ and JD, and their input would “often [lead] to better riffs coming to [MF].”

“My riffs are 70% premeditated and 30% written in the moment,” MF admits.

There’s a palpable sense of spontaneity coursing through each song on Blood Atonement’s demo. Their sound expertly straddles the line between tautly controlled skill and barely contained violence. While the musicians are practiced and honed in their respective arts, they each sound at any given moment ready to smash their instruments and start stabbing with the broken shards. “It’s easy to get lost in the process and spend far more time working on something than you should,” say MF. “The best things I’ve ever written emerged from a burst of influence rather than a drawn-out, meticulous process. Save perfection for the full length and just make something. It doesn’t have to be polished, it doesn’t have to be pretty and you don’t have to love every second of it. You just have to make something. There are things on the demo I would have done differently if I could do it again, but now I’m just eager to apply what I’ve learned to the next release.”

He goes on discuss the track listing of the demo . . .

“The track-listing on the demo is actually also the order we wrote the songs in. I feel around songs five and six our vision was fully formed and our confidence was expanding. [“Uncompromising Manifestation” is] probably my favorite track on the release and the one I’d most want people to hear.”The overall hugeness in sound of the demo occurred naturally, too. According to MF, Blood Atonement recorded their demo in the auditorium of a local community college in, more or less, one night.

We were rehearsed and comfortable with the material,” he says. “Honestly, I find recording to be the most stressful and unpleasant part of being a musician, but recording with Blood Atonement was a comfortable and rewarding experience. My friend Eric Sandvoss did a great job engineering, mixing and mastering the demo.”

Six tracks, no filler, no covers; Blood Atonement’s demo impresses from the onset, but only gets better with each subsequent track and each new listen. And, best of all, copies of the tape remain available. Released by Blood Atonement themselves, this is the version you want, rather than waiting around for the inevitable repress.

Meanwhile, Blood Atonement have been playing live shows around the Seattle area—that’s how we initially heard about them, actually; saw their name on a flyer—and they’re already at work on their next release.

“We have five songs partially written for a future release. Whether that’s for another demo or a full-length will in a lot ways depend on the reaction our current demo gets. I believe we have a show lined up in Portland in September with one of my favorite American black metal bands Panzergod. We’re hellbent on furthering the heinous gospel of Blood Atonement in any way we possibly can.”