Celephais: Dear Cliff Burton 

Art metal band creates work of heart

Subtlety is rarely employed in heavy metal. It's a tactic that's wholly opposite from the genre's typically brutish nature. Yet subtlety gives power to the arching riffs and drones that bind I Am Kuranes (Hoss Records), the debut release from Atlanta trio Celephais. Like the H.P. Lovecraft story from which the group takes its name, the album is a sprawling, inward journey into cosmic mystery.

Made up of Erik Rozsa (guitar, vocals, keyboard), Chris Brooks (drums) and R. Mexico (bass, keyboard, noise), Celephais wields propulsive drums with ominous fugues where song structures collapse into noise. The group transcends the assault of doom metal with a sound that's rooted in the lo-fi '90s. "Metal is a big part of what we do," explains Mexico, aka Hoss Records owner Brad Hurst. "But so much of what inspires us – bands like Boris, Chavez and Swerve Driver – was recorded in the '90s. What we play portrays a love of that."

Rozsa chimes in about how his youthful fascinations with fantasy fiction and admiration for deceased Metallica bassist Cliff Burton linger in his songwriting. "I read all of those old Metallica lyrics," he adds. "This album is sort of an ode to Cliff Burton."

Songs such as "Caparisoned" and "Tanarian Steep" rage with pure malevolence. Other numbers, such as "Nafaxa" and "Pawing the Aether" open up to reveal hidden dimensions of texture lingering in echoing resonance.

The group's metallic edge cuts into an experimental sensibility, tempering mania with introspective ambiance. Vocals emerge as hazy, textural layers that flesh out the moments hanging between drones and crushing hooks. The result is a cerebral grind that reconfigures the sludge and dirge of heavy metal with a much more colorful palette.

Celephais plays the Drunken Unicorn Sat., April 28, with Brass Castle, Battletorn and Midnight. 9 p.m. 736 Ponce de Leon Place. www.thedrunkenunicorn.net.

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