A friend of mine once told me that he doesn’t like any music where it sounds like the singer is smiling.
Hey, buddy, do I ever have a band for you…
Atriarch vocalist Lenny Smith certainly doesn’t sound like he’s having a good time here – from the opening Peter Murphy-ish tones of “Inferno” onward, he shouts and croons, spits and snarls, working his way through a laundry list of downers. “Anguish! Depression!” he barks at one point; “All love is lost… Su-I-Cide, Suicide,” he chants in “Dead”; “Just don’t say words. Don’t speak; don’t stammer; don’t stutter,” he screams in “Void,” and continues shrieking through another of his near-signature street-corner-lunatic rants. By the time he gets to the funereal crawl of “Hopeless,” he’s come full circle to the Murphy baritone / monotone, and it’s as much of a climax as a semi-psychotic jaunt through one man’s madness could be.
Release date: August 11th, 2017. Label: Relapse.
In the hands of a lesser band, much of that could very easily tip into the maudlin melancholy of some goth rock, or the self-loathing tedium of certain kinds of black metal, but Atriarch balances their death rock / doom / occasional black hybrid with expert skill. Taking the repetitive lurch of early Swans and the bleak post-punk of Bauhaus and tossing in just enough black metal to pick up the pace from time to time, Atriarch is effectively classic gothic rock updated for the new millennium, all the darkness and now with less mope and more anger. Andy Savage’s basslines are subterranean, holding the whole affair together; Maxamillion’s Avila’s carefully controlled rhythms shift from a trudge to a slightly more uptempo trudge, deftly building the dynamics to ebb and flow with the crushing squall or broken-glass bursts of Joshua Dark’s guitars.
Atriarch hit the ground running with Forever The End and a strong split with Alaric, but they really came into their own with 2012’s Ritual Of Passing, which was in turn readily eclipsed by 2014’s An Unending Pathway. That latter one saw the band tightening up their sound without losing any of the signature depression, and all the better for both. Dead As Truth is a continuation of that Pathway, the next steps along it, and though it doesn’t really branch out from the established aesthetic, it certainly does a fine job of blotting out the light. At thirty-two minutes, Dead As Truth doesn’t overstay its welcome – it lumbers in, brings you just down enough, and fades into the night.
For all the praise heaped upon Tombs’ recent forays into goth-black hybrid, Atriarch’s approach is exponentially darker and markedly better than that other band, and though I’d still say Pathway is their finest half-hour, there’s more than enough bleak and blackened madness on Dead As Truth to put all but the peppiest do-gooder in that special unhappy place.
Come to the dark side – it’s the most fun you can have without having fun.