Monday, August 8, 2011

Atriarch - "Forever The End" (2011) [Seventh Rule Records]

Doom metal newborns Atriarch, hailing from Portland, Oregon, refer to themselves as a "deathrock ensemble," which is definitely an eyebrow-raiser. For our more metal-oriented readers, "deathrock" almost sounds like it would be synonymous with the horrid "death'n'roll" of bands like Six Feet Under or later Entombed, but in reality it is an entirely different monster. Pioneered by California's Christian Death, deathrock is an offshoot from post-punk/new wave, but in a much more "aggressive" form. Drawing influence eerie, early 20th-century "gothic horror" cinema, not unlike what you would find in films like Nosferatu and the like, one can hear echoes of early horror film soundtracks, surf rock or even rockabilly within the specific scope of deathrock.

Though, while they market themselves as a deathrock band, it is obvious that Atriarch is something much more special and unique. Using funeral doom metal as a strong, ethereal base, Atriarch's plodding debut album, Forever The End, utilizes deathrock more as a basis of influence, drawing upon the genre's gloomy, prominent basslines, moaning voices and minimal guitar work to create one of the most interesting textural fusions I've heard so far in 2011. While the deathrock influence is prominent enough for the band to define themselves as such, Forever The End sounds more as if Christian Death was left to die in a blizzard, leaving behind a powerful, toiling mass of droning misery. Throughout the album, bassist Nick and guitarist Blackhawk work together to build interesting, circuitous textures based around the space between each shimmering note, at times almost echoing Estonian composer Arvo Part's tintinnabuli composing style, giving each crushing doom climax a sense of immediacy and immense power.

What immediately grabbed me with this album, aside from how fantastic and powerful the music itself is, was the production. As I have stated in the past, I'm not really one for noticing production nuances, but Forever The End's fizzy, aged sound was as unique as it was harrowing. Throughout the album I am reminded of composer William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops, in which, while converting old magnetic tape, which had been left in a closet for over 20 years, began to disintegrate throughout the conversion process, and the overall tone of Forever The End matches that damaged, old sound almost perfectly. If someone had sent me these files, saying that this was an old Thergothon side-project that they had abandoned and left the demos in a box for 20 years before ultimately releasing the tape masters, I wouldn't doubt it. The round, unassuming sound washes over the listeners while still retaining the sharp attack of each note, preventing Atriarch's masterpiece from becoming a boring, anticlimactic wall of fuzz.

Those of you who have been following Atriarch will notice that I left a key buzz word out in the beginning. Yes, it woul appear that Atriarch is not just a "deathrock ensemble" but a "Cascadian deathrock ensemble." Now, I've gotten in trouble for having opinions of the whole Cascadian nonsense aired on The Inarguable, so I will keep it brief; I am sort of bummed that such a unique band resorts to using a buzz word. Yes, I am aware of the camaraderie within the "scene" surrounding the Cascade mountain range, but I've only really seen it pinned to black metal bands and it would be sort of a bummer to see the likes of Atriarch get the same sort of treatment from horrible internet folks like me would imbue upon bands like Wolves in the Throne Room (whose new album, I must admit, isn't that bad). Atriarch is something new and and a definite breath of fresh air in a locale where doom metal has pretty much taken a back seat for the time being. If you don't believe me, feel free to stream the whole album for free at Decibel.

You can preorder Forever The End from Atriarch's BandCamp or you can watch for its official release from Seventh Rule here. Word has it that they're releasing a split with fellow deathrockers Alaric in the near future, but you didn't hear that from me. It would be a poor decision to ignore this band.


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