Posted on: February 5, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by James Landgraf

The Smashing Pumpkins smash into a new captivating sound with “ATUM,” their 33-track rock opera album.

The band is taking an innovative approach to releasing the album, coming out with it in three separate installments of 11 songs each. ATUM: Act Two was released last week. Act One was released in November, and the final act is scheduled for release April 21. Lead vocalist Billy Corgan is also releasing tracks one at a time in weekly segments on his podcast “Thirty-Three.” But the innovation doesn’t stop there.

“ATUM” tells the story of the band’s character Shining in a dystopian world, centering around themes of war, identity, and social justice. And alongside their classic grunge sound, you can find a new pop influence.

Abby Hobbs

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Corgan’s melancholic, emotive vocals lead the way through every song. With a layer of different instruments, licks of that classic Pumpkins guitar sound, and a smattering of electronic elements, it’s apparent that Corgan is taking a different approach. However, that everlasting heaviness still plays a key role in their songs; it’ll never fade away. It’s simply a new take on their original sound, incorporated with unfamiliar elements. 

The lead single “Beguiled” is a perfect introduction to this unique approach. The guitar is prominent; while not as heavy and grunge-like as their classic 90’s sound, it’s still a significant part of this piece. That deep, treble-heavy tone still manages to be incorporated. This is one of the more guitar-driven songs, while simultaneously relying on both electronic and contemporary pop elements.

Synth has been no stranger to the Pumpkins’ recent discography, specifically with their 2020 album titled “CYR.” However, ATUM takes this profound artistry to the next level; with a warmer, dreamier approach, smothering your ears in a dark, twisted lullaby.

The unmistakable sound of Corgan’s voice echoes, “So swallow hard the serpents / Of many tags and faces hid in masks.” In the background, James Iha shreds on the electric guitar, reminiscent of their once darker, heavier era. Things begin to take a turn during the instrumental break, where stings of high-pitched, sinister synthesizer begin to take over.

The Smashing Pumpkins show their experimental nature with their artsy dance video for “Beguiled.”

The contrast between these two sections of the song is remarkable; it demonstrates Corgan’s impressive vocal range and the band’s new chosen path in the music industry.

“Embracer,” meanwhile, conveys a much brighter, happier sound. While “Beguiled” emulates the raw alternative nature of their previous albums, this song is fixated on their newfound synth and pop fundamentals.

“I’d love you to follow / A star on the rise and tuned by bloom,” Corgan sings, with beautiful background vocals from Katie Cole. As she harmonizes with the lead singer, a lovely yet seldom-heard sound is created.

With lyrics like “It’s only the lonely who lose,” a strong theme is created; a message that is in line with the classic Pumpkins’ ethos. Somber lyrics incorporated into upbeat songs like these manage to pull many lonely folks out of isolation during troubling times. It’s a beautiful yet effective way to draw people in.

Despite ATUM not having more of the Pumpkins’ original sound that fans may crave, it’s a powerful statement from the band, standing as a testament to their creative ambition and musical prowess. In comparison to their older tracks, ATUM is a very modern-sounding version of the Pumpkins. The synths are perfect atmospheric layers to this new album. They take you on a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from betrayal, to love, hate and sadness. 

Corgan’s lyrical genius is undoubtedly still present, and the experimentation with a poppier sound leads to a more surprising listen, drawing you into their world. So have no fear! You can “return the faith” that this is the same Smashing Pumpkins we know and love, just with a little twist.