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.