Crawling out of Portland with their debut album Forever the End, Atriarch envelope you in a claustrophobic mix of über-grinding doom, bewitching atmospheres and icy black metal remoteness. Drawing rave reviews from all quarters, and even a nod from the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne, Atriarch’s debut is a first-rate slab of ill-tempered noise and a fine lesson in what can be achieved when the dismal totality of ritualistic and****esoterically inclined metal meets that austere core of gothic post-punk.
With Lenny on vocals, Blackhawk on guitar, Maxamillion on drums and Nick on bass, Atriarch make one hell of an unholy racket. With only four songs on their debut they’ve obviously gone for quality over quantity, and quality is exactly what you get. “Plague” begins the album with a menacing fuzzed out intro before developing into a gut retching dirge-like workout—with the black metal elements slowed right down to maximize the cruelty. Following on, “Shadows” drifts in with a glacial pulse that’d wouldn’t be out of place on a Joy Division bootleg, before the HUGE riffs come crashing down and any gloomy reflective moments are buried beneath a grim finish.
The 14 minutes of “Fracture”, which begins with a familiar sludgy lead-in, coils around itself until the five-minute mark when the hammer drops and the repetitive churning riffs take over. Finishing with “Downfall”, the albums shortest track, you’re again greeted with that post-punk pulse, where a throbbing bass prelude is elegantly layered with Lenny’s gloomy vocals—until the screeching begins anyway—and then it’s back to the pounding riffs all over again.
With only four songs to work with Atriarch don’t hold back on the ferocity, but the album’s best feature, at least in my mind, isn’t at the heavier end. Forever the End would be nothing without the interweaving of gentler, more gracious elements. It’s in those moments of calm that the clotted atmosphere hanging over the album becomes less overwhelming, allowing you to take pause and reflect on what you’re experiencing. It’s clear the range of dynamics on the album—the juxtaposing of ill-natured and benevolent riffs, and Lenny’s vocal work, which ranges from the melancholic to torturous howls—is capable of channeling one towards a point of ritualistic spiritual catharsis. I’m not there myself just yet—but that’s no criticism of the band. It’s just that Forever the End is such a feast of atmospherics that I’ve gotten greedy. I’m hungering for just a few more songs to tip me over the edge.
Atriarch have all the makings of a band that given time to develop will come up with something even more impressive. As it is, I’ve no complaints about this one. Loaded with a dark hypnotic energy, *Forever the End *is a self-assured, well-handled dive into the chaos of mystical funeral doom. Big crushing riffs, an undercurrent of spacey 80s rock, and a great deal of orthodox malevolence. Loads of bands talk about the liturgy, but Atriarch truly deliver the sermon. *Forever the End *might not be offering any clear hope of redemption, but Atriarch provide plenty of desolate moments to ponder over while you’re rotting away. Out now on the always-awesome Seventh Rule Recordings, and highly recommended.