When I reviewed Autarch’s self-titled debut EP last August, I wrote that it was “plenty good as it stands, but it may be even more significant for the promises it holds of even more interesting music to come.” The time has arrived to find out whether the band have made good on those promises, because they’ve just released their first album, The Death of Actiacus.
What interested me about Autarch’s EP was the largely successful way in which they combined the grit and aggressiveness of crust-punk with the atmospheric, guitar-driven melodies of post-rock. It’s a combination that’s still at the core of their sound on the new album, but the songs are even better written and better performed, and they’ve pushed the potential of the juxtaposition even further. The result is a memorable and compelling experience.
With songs of above average length, Autarch have given themselves room to expand and to explore the dynamic contrasts in the styles to which they’ve dedicated themselves. Take the third song, “Comarre”, as an example. It begins with head-gripping guitar-picking, an infectious beat, and a shimmering melody that gets you nodding in an ethereal flow. The music builds in volume and intensity — and then the guitars really bite down and sink their teeth into your neck, the pace eventually accelerating and the rhythms transitioning into a punk stomp, the guitars kicking up both dirt and light as the vocalist lets go in a hoarse bark.
A slow-down follows, with the music dragging the listener bodily through a gravel pit to the accompaniment of a beefy bass solo, and then the speed and volume build again, ramping up into a head-hammering dual-guitar groove.
“Exodus” may be an even more seamless integration of heavy, muscular guitar chords and engrossing melody. The song is both skull-hammering and soaring. In both the end of that song and the beginning of the next one (“What Rough Beast”), rippling, tremolo-picked strings shine against a heavy, grinding undercarriage. “What Rough Beast” eventually transitions from a rollicking, rolling punk blast into something completely different — something atmospheric, soft, melancholy, with the guitars eventually spreading out into a post-rock aurora of melody, pierced by streamers of intense fire at the finish.
And so it goes . . . harsh, corrosive vocals married to contemplative guitar notes, primal heavy-booted rhythms in partnership with the ring of chiming chords, grinding bass-lines coupled with dual-guitar harmonies that spiral off into darkening clouds, music that’s both bruising and mesmerizing, a kick in the teeth paired with moments that may cause you to close your eyes and let go with the flow.
I’m sure there will be fans out there for which this album ain’t punk enough, and others for which it’s too jarring (particularly in the vocal department). But I like what Autarch have done on this album — and I’m still interested in seeing what they will do next.
The Death of Actiacus is available on Bandcamp now, and should be available eventually on both tape and vinyl via Headfirst! Records. Stream it below. (And by the way, “Actiacus” appears to be the surname of the Greek god Apollo.)
Glad you wrote this up. I saw the Bandcamp notification that they’d posted the album, but it kept slipping down my list of things to check out because I kept thinking, “Well, the EP was pretty O.K., bu I haven’t listened to it in a while, so maybe I don’t need to be too excited about this…”
I think I’m a little on the fence like you Islander. They’re on the cusp of something really cool, but they aren’t quite there yet. Definitely not bad at all, it’s just lacking… something. Can’t quite pinpoint it. Some of the mixing/production choices are odd for the style of music, the drummer seems ever so slightly out of time, and the songs don’t all have that extra “umph” factor to them to make them stick in your head.
But there’s a lot of awesome sonic ideas here that I’ve always looked for in a post-punk band. Definitely a “must-watch” band, there’s potential here.
not bad, don’t know if i’m digging it enough to grab the album. but it might grow on me
Disagree with both of you i think Autarch are one of the finest Epic/Neo/Crust/Blah whatever type bands around i think both the EP and the album show a band with an abundance of ideas and a shitload of talent! Head and shoulders above the myriad of bands doing this style why someone has not picked them up for an album or something yet i do not know! utterly amazing stuff! I Downloaded it from Audiosiege and after 1 listen i contacted band straight away for a hard copy! First and possibly only person in the UK to do so (According to the band who originally had no idea on shipping costs as they hadn’t sold any overseas then) also Rayny from moshpit tragedy posted up that this demo was downloaded 906 times in one month! I respect you guys opinion completely i however think you’re maybe being as little overcritical? sorry 🙂