Strings of Atlas have been dishing out some supremely potent riffage in the last decade, and in their first release of the new decade – a three song EP titled How Far We’ve Come, after its sound-defining lead single – they’re back with what amounts to their heaviest material to see widespread release thus far. Led by the brilliantly talented Atlas Cage, Strings of Atlas present listeners with one brain-melting groove after another in this progressively-stylized extended play, and although Cage himself isn’t necessarily introducing anything new to the fold for his namesake band, it’s critically undebatable whether or not he’s demonstrating more consistency than most any of his six-string-wielding peers in the underground are right now. From where I sit, this is one axe man with nothing left to prove.

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From a lyrical perspective, “Gone Away” and “Not Over,” the two songs that accompany the title track in How Far We’ve Come, feel a lot more enigmatic in tone than past compositions from this band have, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they’re a complete departure from what Strings of Atlas have produced in some of their most well-received numbers. I get the impression that Cage is trying to take this group’s creative trajectory in a more efficient direction here, and while he’s not shying away from a little bit of virtuosic indulgence on the guitar every now and again, there’s no question that, as a whole, How Far We’ve Come is the leanest and meanest his band has ever sounded.

I love the way the basslines accent the percussive elements in the title track and “Not Over” rather than the other way around, and in employing this scheme over a different formula, I think Atlas Cage successfully utilized every inch of space in the master mix (which subsequently yields a tidal wave of tonality that is inescapable for anyone within earshot of the distorted melodies here). Although it’s sad to admit, there have been scores of EPs coming across my desk in 2020 riddled with filler, but that isn’t something listeners need to worry about before picking up the Strings of Atlas record – this is 100% content and zero filler, which is more than can be said for its closest competitors out of the mainstream this spring.

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Fans of true rock n’ roll wallop as it was always meant to be enjoyed needn’t look any further than Strings of Atlas’ How Far We’ve Come for a good time this April, and it would definitely surprise me a great deal if I were the only critic lauding its metallic material at the moment. There hasn’t been a lot of excitement to report on among the heavier alternative rock acts in the game lately, but thanks to the steadfast efforts of Atlas Cage and his collaborators here, those of us who kneel at the altar of this genre’s most profound stalwarts can rest assured knowing that 2020 won’t be without a killer soundtrack worthy of the generation of headbangers it’s charged with ushering into the future.

Sebastian Cole