Originally written by Ramar Pittance
Steeped in early 80s Gothic, death rock and post-punk conventions, Alaric’s self-titled debut is the type of album that features such an expert execution of a specific sound that it warrants the attention of anyone interested in bands who just “get shit done right.” You can hear the hard work being done here, as Alaric’s execution is owed in part to their determination to grindingly and unapologetically enforce their sound and push compositions forward one hard-earned yard at a time.
Though bearing a heavy debt to the early work of Ur post-punkers Killing Joke, Alaric is at its best when it conjures the melodic sensibilities of a whole host of bands who popped up in the wake of the initial punk explosion. “Alone” — among the best songs on the album — sprinkles deconstructed minor chords over a concrete foundation composed of a rumbling bassline and tribal drumming; think Christian Death, Joy Divisionand Amebix coming together to solve the key question that drove each band’s early work. This means that what Alaric does admirably well is compose dark and doggedly morose compositions where the key function of any melodic interjection is to be swept away by the next rush of dark clouds.
If Alaric’s dark / light sensibilities are at constant odds throughout this long-player, than it should also be noted that vocalist Shane Baker deals static, unchecked consternation. Baker barks a steady stream of breathless street-corner invective that never really modulates in tone or intensity, but does well enough to ride the compositional ebbs and flows.
More important than the contribution of individual players, though, is Alaric’s collective dedication to each track’s momentum. Disdainful of any sort of reflective indulgence, bassist / songwriter Rick Jacobus fulfills his sonic mandate to keep the wheels rolling. These songs may feel like death marches through dark urban corners (“Laughter of the Crows”), but damn it, at least they’re going somewhere. Alternately, Alaric’s sound could be seen as a metaphor for the unabated momentum of decay.
There’s probably only two reasonable ways of enjoying Alaric’s debut. Punk savants with a soft spot for the short-lived but creatively fertile era of post-punk / goth / death rock that saw bands expanding the melodic potential of the genre will get some kicks out of a superficial listen. But if you’ve got a little more time on your hands, this is the kind of album you’ll start eventually feeling in your muscle fibers. Its force rests not in apparent speed or power, but in its deadly serious promise that Alaric is not going to stop pushing the boulder forward. Ever. So either strap up for the slog, or avert your eyes as that death march rolls on.