Getting a new album from a band I really like is pretty great. But getting a new record from TWO bands I really like is even better. No shit, right? Who wouldn’t like that? OK, obvious intro, but that’s true when it comes to what I write about today.
Last year, two bands that really got me excited were Alaric and Atriarch, groups that walk the edges around heavy metal but come more from the deathrock and doom persuasion. Alaric’s debut album came out on 20 Buck Spin and was something that ignited my love for really early albums by The Cure, Swans, and Amebix, while Atriarch delivered their astonishing first record “Forever the End” on Seventh Rule and came from a burlier, blacker area but also had some gothic and New Wave dashes. In fact, the band has a new full-length due later this year on Profound Lore, and I’m pretty excited to hear what they unearth.
But in between both of those bands’ initial offerings and their sophomore platters comes a new split record featuring each getting one side to do their thing and whet our appetites. Alaric kick off the album with three really strong, darkly melodic tracks, while Atriarch lays down two hammers, including one of the angriest songs I’ve heard this still-young year. It’s an appetizer (or dessert, I guess, since both bands’ debuts remain pretty fresh), but it’s a damn tasty one that is worth repeated indulgences.
Alaric, who hail from Oakland, Calif., are made up of dudes who have been in other notable bands such as Noothgrush, Enemies, Dead & Gone, and Cross-Stitched Eyes , and their new band sounds like one that could have been a pioneer for the 1980s alternative rock movement had their music been born in that era. At the same time, had they been sandwiched between Celtic Frost and Type O Negative videos on the old Headbangers Ball, and they really would not have seemed in foreign territory. In case you missed it, here’s what we thought of their first record: https://meatmeadmetal.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/alaric-and-alarum-their-names-sound-confusingly-alike-but-their-music-doesnt/
On this split, they open up with “Memory Assault,” a dreary, depressing dirge that’s full-blown watery deathrock, raw vocals from frontman Shane Baker (he’s both maniacal and totally easy to understand when he emotes his misery), and unmistakable anger. “So Far Down” is equally drab and gloomy on the surface, but there’s an undeniable catchiness to it as well, and once you get used to the song, you might find yourself singing along to it. This track is the best example of the band’s pop sensibility – not in the popcorn mainstream sense, clearly – and provides a glimpse into why Alaric are so, well, alluring. Their final track “Weep” is aptly named. It’s sad, depressing, anguished, somber, but also defiant, especially when Baker notes, “Something’s been stolen away.” You get the sense they’ve understood and addressed the darkness, but they’re not giving into the temptation to give up. It’s a really effective ending to Alaric’s portion of the split.
Atriarch’s selections are my favorite on here, and that’s no slight at all to Alaric. Their frontman Lenny Smith (also of criminally under-appreciated doom metal band Trees) is a true maniacal presence, but even when he’s foaming at the mouth and prepared to strike, he’s always in control and knows his game plan. He’s never rattling off diatribes just to do so, and every line he delivers has a purpose and a meaning. The rest of the band provides the proper deathrock-fueled, doom-addled charge, as they can be both brutally aggressive and atmospherically thoughtful in their compositions. Atriarch definitely make the most of their two songs on here, and they have me heavily anticipating their next full-length. Here’s what we thought of their debut: https://meatmeadmetal.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/atriarchs-doom-demands-societal-scrutiny/
“Oblivion” is the band’s first cut on here, and is it ever angry and pointed. It’s one of the most furious assaults on the effects and destructive tendencies of organized religion, and Smith’s delivery (that reminds me of a super pissed-off Chuck Mosely) just hammers this thing home. He speak-sings over the verses, noting how “we are controlled by our fears” and that we’re “still living in slavery,” but his best line comes later in the song when he notes, “If you believe that your instincts are sins, the lie tells itself again and again.” That lyric should be plastered on billboards across the state of North Carolina this week. The chorus is a rush of fury when Smith howls, “The soul inside of you dies and falls to oblivion.” It’s almost like a companion cut to Alaric’s “Your God” from their debut, and it cuts to the bone. “Offerings” is a longer, more contemplative cut both musically and philosophically, but just because there’s more air let into the room doesn’t mean their anger has subsides, especially when Smith accuses, “We are rejected with open arms.” Not exactly the feel-good anthems of the summer.
If you’re not familiar with either band yet, this split is a great introduction piece to let you know what they offer. If you, like me, already are a fan of these groups, it’s a killer stop gap before they strike again with new long players. Either way, prepare for a dark journey that will challenge your spirit, break your soul, and reduce you to a pile of flesh and rubble. Think I’m being over the top? Try it on and see.
For more on Alaric, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alaric/201671150715
For more on Atriarch, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ATRIARCH/241062512127
To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/releases/spin046-alaric-atriarch-split-lp/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/