Charting the dark: Spek Atlas travels

Image courtesy of the artists.

In the music world, the word “atlas” usually denotes expansiveness. The inclusion of the term in a band name is almost a guarantee, a deal with listeners who prefer experimenters and aural adventures unhindered by the compressive force of mainstream radio. No exception to this rule, Bozeman-based Spek Atlas bucks restrictive formats, churning out a heavy, thunderous and slightly gloomy brand of thoughtful, conscious rock.

Spek Atlas’s initial effort covers strange ground. Raging guitars and high-flying aggressive vocals alternate with quiet, depth-plumbing instrumental moments, a seesaw exchange essential to the group’s distinctive product.

Spek Atlas guitarist and lyricist Jesse Collins noted, “This is the first question everyone always asks: What kind of music do you play? I call it hippie metal.” This apt label perfectly describes the Atlas sound, a snaking style reminiscent of At the Drive In, Tool and the psychedelic bands of yore. “We definitely do a lot of jams,” said Collins. “Our newer stuff is a little more out there. We have a 15-minute song now. If we play a three-hour set, about one hour of that will be improv.”

“A Natural Calamity,” the band’s first album, touches on apocalyptic and introspective themes — a symbolic pooling of external disaster and internal conflict. When asked about possible “apocalyptic undertones” permeating the band’s music, Collins replied, “For some reason, we just started writing about disasters, and some of our new songs are along those lines, but they are fairly metaphorical. It’s all up for interpretation. Maybe I could tell you what I meant when I wrote those songs, or maybe I forgot.”

Clearly, Spek Atlas welcomes an independent-minded audience, one capable of internalizing and deciphering the band’s message with a personal lens. “Our mission for ourselves is to grow as artists,” Collins said. “But the music is meant to be thought-provoking and if people feel emotionally affected, well, that’s part of it, too.”

Spek Atlas recently completed a tour of the Northwest and for now, Collins said the band intends to stick to the region and launch another tour in spring 2013.

Bozeman residents can catch Spek Atlas at the Haufbrau this Friday. The band’s album, “A Natural Calamity” streams for free at www.spekatlas.com.