Introducing Prog Limelight Band Atlas Empire

Atlas: Empire

Atlas: Empire

Line-up: Steven Gillies (vocals/guitar), Jamie Sturt (vocals, guitar, keys, electronics), Robert Hasebe (bass)

Sounds like: Black Peaks channeling Mars Volta’s caustic burn

Current release: The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet is out now and is self-released


There is a scant line that exists between freedom and gluttony, and for some prog bands, it’s a fatal flaw. Having the freedom to do anything, after all, is very different from doing everything. Glasgow’s Atlas : Empire fall on the right side of this line.  

“The idea behind the name is really just about doing whatever we feel as musicians,” says vocalist/guitarist Steven Gillies. “That might sound pretentious, but I feel it’s the opposite. I’ve always used the progressive tag because it doesn’t pigeonhole us. There are no limitations.”

Gillies caught the bug, like many, in his teens. “The first [progressive] band that I heard that connected with me was Soundgarden,” he tells Prog. “A lot of people don’t think of them as progressive, but I would argue that point. They were a band from the grunge scene that used loads of alternative tunings and weird time signatures, so that kind of blew my mind at the time. Especially learning guitar and going, ‘So this is not 4/4!?’”

From there flowed Oceansize, A Perfect Circle, Tool, Glassjaw, At The Drive-In, And So I Watch You From Afar – all of whom have fed into Atlas’ white-hot sound. The effect was liberating to say the least.

“I find it dull as a form, if bands don’t mix it up,” says Gillies. “There are only so many times I can listen to bands sound like Explosions In The Sky… [For me], it’s the freedom aspect, you know, two albums from now we could be super heavy, we could be chilled-out, we could be instrumental, acoustic, completely electronic. I like the fact that there’s no restrictions.”

Atlas’ debut is The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet is a mixture of all of the above. It is a shape-shifting sand demon of an album that runs the gamut from post-hardcore to prog metal to post-rock and into the new stream of modern British ‘rock prog’, encapsulated by the likes of Black Peaks and Arcane Roots. At its heart is the concept that our sleepwalking state of online self-indulgence and increasing ignorance of genuine interpersonal connection can be taken to a logical yet frightening conclusion: societal collapse.

“As much as technological advances are great and connect people in a lot of ways, being completely reliant on it…” says Gillies, pausing. “What happens if it stops? What happens if it goes away? I think it is really dangerous.”

The post-truth era, political extremes, the loneliness epidemic: Facebook has become Death, the destroyer of worlds. Still, at least, come the end, we’ll be clutching our charred copy of The Stratosphere Beneath Our Feet.

“Yes, that can be the soundtrack to this digital apocalypse,” agrees Gillies. “But hopefully not. The second album is going to be us apologising. That everybody got off their social media feeds and we’re all good – it was all a false alarm!”

It’s up to you then, prog community. Save the world. There are no limitations here, after all…

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Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.