(Wil Cifer wrote this review of the new album by Atriarch from Portland, Oregon, coming in August via Relapse Records.)
The Portland band returns with a new full-length that finds the newest incarnation of the band exploring yet another path to heavy.
The gloom is more visceral in the ritualistic pulse of “Inferno”, which opens the album. Singer Lenny Smith shouts out commanding declarations of his spiraling emotional state. Right from the first song they waste no time using an array of vocal colors, from a death rock croon to a black metal howl.
More often than not they creep along at more of a doom pace, yet the darkness they paint these songs with would appeal to fans of black metal. When they do choose to pick up the pace, they do so without using blast beats as an easy way out.
“Dead”, like several of the other songs on this album, is from the self-released cassette EP they dropped last year, which plays more to their death rock side. The chants of suicide are followed with despairing moans as Smith muses over slitting his wrists. The bass drives the song and gives the guitars some space to play around with some sonic textures. Black metal is not a final destination but another dynamic option. They evade sub-genre labels and focus their intention more on the down-trodden emotions.
“Devolver” is a new one, with the drums taking on the duty of building a tribal tension. There is a more sludge-like oppression to the mood, one that waits for an impending explosion. Rather than unleashing an outpouring of speed, they hit you with very deliberate and powerful chugs. So it doesn’t feel like this is an exercise in restraint, but a shift in creative intent.
“Void” and “Repent”, both are from the cassette release. “Void” brings to mind a conversation I had with my therapist who told me that depression turned inwards eventually comes out as anger. This is the mood invoked here. “Repent” laments this pre-apocalyptic world where the rich keep getting stronger. The drumming keeps a brisk pace while dissonant stabs of guitar linger behind.
The album closes with “Hopeless”. The guitar tone shifts and has a cleaner sound. There is a mix of beauty and ugly dissonance. The song is aptly named, as it feels more depressing, and it is by no means a shade brighter than the shadows.
The album is another great addition that takes the cassette EP and expands the world they began to create there. The mood is very solid and opaque. While not as dense or heavy in the metal sense as what we have heard from them in the past, I think it takes the two sides to this band and melds them into a cohesive presentation.
Fans who have followed the band throughout the course of their musical journey will have no problem embracing this chapter of their sound. Once again, Atriarch teach a lesson in how sheer force of darkness alone can be heavy.
Dead As Truth will be released by Relapse Records on August 11.