Alaric/Atriarch - Split LPposted on 8/2012 By:
Alaric is a four-piece death rock / post-punk outfit from California's Bay Area that won over critics -- including me -- with their self-titled debut in October. That album not only sounded brilliant for its loving conjuration of the early works Killing Joke and Christian Death, et. al, it distinguished them as a band capable of writing songs that outshone the novelty of their sound. Fans of that debut won't be disappointed with this split, as the band continues to devoutly adhere to its guiding sonic principals, while moving closer to its own artistic peak.
What elevates Alaric above the station of a band with a keen ear for recreation is how the players use the sound. Guitars are blindingly bright and bass rolls off the fingers with a richness that's uncommon in the realm of heavy music, yet, despite all that sonic bounty, Alaric conveys only desolation; a feast of want. This tension between sound and style is best demonstrated on "Weep," a gorgeous-sounding song that ought to make you feel terrible. Bassist / songwriter Rick Jacobus is the key player here, gradually modulating tempo to control the momentum of track, trudging forward in open opposition to the lush, chorus-rich guitars. More than just "grounding" the track, Jacobus's bass grounds the listener, as well. "Isn't this all so lovely?" it asks. "Well, we're still right fucked."
Alaric is the rare act that can work in a rigidly defined style, while still functioning as a vehicle for pure self-expression. This split is required listening for this band's contribution alone.
Atriarch is challenged with following what might be one of the best songs released this year, and while they don't offer anything that quite measures up, this Portland-based quartet is plenty game."Oblivion" is serviceable paint-by-numbers death rock, and it can only feel like too safe an effort compared to Alaric's more industrious take on the style. "Offerings," though, is a head-turner. While still painting with the same sonic palette as on "Oblivion," its martial pace and two-rooms-away bass tone call to mind The Ruins of Beverast just as much as they do Amebix. Think black metal by way of Bauhaus.
Atriarch sounds like a band still sussing out influences. They fall a bit flat when playing it straight, but touch on something inspired when muddying the waters a bit with some off-style aggression.