Album Review: Atmosphere, “The Family Sign”
By Tom Roth
It is impossible to do a casual review of Atmosphere. In fact, approaching Atmosphere casually in any regard is almost as inappropriate as describing Inception as a movie about dreams. With a canon of albums reaching back to 1997, Atmosphere established themselves as one of the most important underground rap unions a long time ago – a legacy which continues with their latest studio album, The Family Sign.
A casual approach is also something Atmosphere doesn’t do well, particularly on The Family Sign. This is their Guernica; the album features dark tales of abuse and disparagement with no respite to be found. The head-banging beat heard in “Shotgun” from their latest EP release, To All My Friends: Blood Makes the Blade Holy is absent, replaced with the likes of “Bad Bad Daddy,” an account of modern day poor-parenting. The downward spiral continues on “If You Can Save Me Now,” in which the blood and broken glass of a car crash are par for the course. On each, Slug brings the listener into the story with a first-hand account of events, a surefire way to catch any listener’s attention.
The lyricism for which Atmosphere has become famous is clear on many tracks as Slug addresses heavy topics of death, insincerity, and even domestic violence. Most times, the attack is frontal, but in true Atmospheric fashion, it sometimes blindsides the listeners such as on “Became.” Listen closely. You’ll be surprised.
To listen to all fourteen tracks is a struggle simply because of the weight of issues addressed. The Family Sign exacts an emotional toll on the listener. This one’s not for the faint of heart.
Listen to “The Last to Say” here