Atriarch are a pretty great band that, it’s hard to believe, began eight years ago. Starting in Portland, the band has made a reputation for producing a unique take on doom metal that introduces elements of the creepier side of deathrock into their meditatively bleak metallic mix. The years 2012 through 2014 saw the most output from the band; since then, the pace of releases has slowed. But now it’s 2017 and the band has announced a new LP on Relapse, the long-awaited Dead as Truth, their 4th album overall. It comes out August 11th.
So let’s take a look at this upcoming release, shall we?
First of all, Relapse is promoting the album as “mind-altering, doom-soaked death rock.” In the past, indeed, I’ve noted how a lot of Atriarch’s songs seem, unlike most by-the-numbers doom metal, to have borrowed some of the vibe of Christian Death’s earliest and most occult-influenced stuff and injected it into their crushingly doomy mix. And Atriarch have even, I would submit, introduced some of the atmosphere of early occult dark ambient material a la Current 93 into their material. But to call anything Atriarch have done “deathrock” (in a purist sense) would be misleading, especially on the new offering. Dead as Truth is a bleak, devastatingly nihilstic modern doom metal LP with occasional black metal flourishes, best evidenced on the LP’s penultimate track, “Repent.” This release shouldn’t disappoint fans of their discography: singer Lenny Smith’s vocals are mostly icily monotone, somewhat like Michael Gira’s of Swans, but they erupt into Exorcist-style howling at key, climactic moments. Joshua Dark’s dirgey guitar moans and roars, dishing out crushing downtuned power chords that seem to map a path down, down, ever down through the nine circles of Dante’s abyss.
“We are beyond thrilled to have gotten the chance to work with the legendary Daniel Menche on this project. He is not only a fantastic artist but an incredible person as well. We are long time admirers of his work, both sonic and visual. So this was truly a great experience for us.” Atriarch States…
And can we talk about the absolute powerhouse drummer that is Maxamillion Avila? In the world of music journalism, “powerhouse drummer” is a cliché, and you’re not supposed to use the term any more. But there are drummers like Keith Moon, Big Paul Ferguson of Killing Joke, Chuck Biscuits of DOA and the original Danzig lineup, and, I would submit, Maxamillion Avila, that remind you why the term was ever invented to begin with. If you’ve had the pleasure to be in the live presence of Avila’s drumming, you can attest to the absolute, visceral gut-check feeling of his punishing pounding on the skins. On Dead as Truth, Avila’s rumbling, tribal, stomping powerhouse drumming provides the compelling power that propels each song. (Avila, coincidentally, has taken turns in bands as diverse as Antioch Arrow, Get Hustle, Soft Kill, and even the Chromatics.)
The lyrics on Dead as Truth are about as directly nihilistic as it gets: “my life becomes a stain/ where only ghosts remain / just a shadow of the pain / I am dead and gone / SUICIDE / love is lost, life forgot / love is lost, nothing left inside / […] we are all dead” (from the second track, “Dead”). Surprisingly, the most black metal-sounding track on the LP, “Repent,” also has the most political lyrics: “another battlefield that’s littered with the bodies of the poor /as the rich keep growing stronger, this is a war that we can’t win.” Not very hopeful. But this is an album, after all, whose title is “Dead as truth.”
Some sonic reference points for this LP include Times of Grace-era Neurosis, Pinkish Black’s doomier and less prog-y stuff, and Alaric (with whom Atriarch made a split EP in 2012).
Below, Relapse has made the first track of Dead as Truth, “Inferno,” available. At almost 8 minutes it’s the longest track on the album, but gives a good indication of the relentlessly bleak atmosphere of the LP: