Alaric’s new LP, End of Mirrors, is on Neurosis’ Neurot Recordings label, which is fitting since the fellow Bay Area band has always seemed to owe something sonically to the period of Neurosis between Word as Law and Souls at Zero, and since the band has indirect ties to them: Alaric’s Rick Jacobus and Jason Willer have also been in The Enemies, which featured Neurosis’ Dave Edwardson at one point.
End of Mirrors is a heavy, deep, and complex offering – at some points it reminds of Amebix and Killing Joke, or Rudimentary Peni, but mostly it is Alaric’s own singular sound that shines through: a combination of post-crust darkness tempered with a nod or two to classic, trad gothic rock, and with echoes of members’ previous hardcore bands. Alaric are a very heavy act, but they’re heavy in a way that isn’t hackneyed or played out. The production on End of Mirrors is well done – spacious, booming, with all the instruments spaced well apart, and special attention paid to the low end, by Skot Brown of Bay Area deathrock bands Phantom Limbs and Black Ice at Kempton House Studio.
Alaric are exploring their own sonic territory here, and the soundscapes are lush, brilliantly dark, atmospheric, moody, introspective and ritualistic. At the same time, the band can display a crushing force that upends all the atmospheric stuff, delivering pure driving, even rocking, sonic missives, whenever they want. This is a side of them that is held in reserve and is unleashed strategically, deliberately, tactically and tactfully. Live, they are a five piece, and they can indulge in bullheaded, palm-muted guitar chug as much as the best crust band, but they also continuously break free from those constraints, achieving something like an existentially post-rock version of Rudimentary Peni or Part 1. The more sophisticated and nuanced side of Alaric is on full display on End of Mirrors – just check out the alternately tribal, demonic, doomy, and ritualistic track “Adore” for proof.
Alaric are a product of the Bay Area through and through: the band’s pedigree includes members from bands like Noothgrush, Dead and Gone, and fellow dark punkers Cross Stitched Eyes. Drummer Jason Willer was recently enlisted into Jello Briafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine. These ingredients do all come through, somehow — mainly in the dark and funereal overtones of Alaric’s sound on this LP, which is an oceanic tempest of crashing black waves of guitar, masterfully tribal drumming courtesy Jason Willer, and unfettered, absolute despair and desperation punctuated by brief, shimmering moments of hope and revelation. Harrowing soundscapes are punctuated with bursts of anger; what is thoughtful and introspective crystallizes into moments of angry clarity.
Alaric’s old Myspace page noted the band was formed in 2008 to “thoroughly investigate the textures, energies and vibrations of dark, guitar-driven music influenced by the Post-Punk and Death Rock that [the band members] loved so much,” and indeed the band’s Facebook page cites the influence of bands like Rudimentary Peni, Christian Death, Killing Joke, and Part 1. The title track of End of Mirrors may borrow a page or three from the Amebix song “Arise,” from Killing Joke’s “Wardance,” or maybe even from Tragedy’s “Darker Days Ahead.”