"Forever The End"

By Earthdog

This album from Portland's Atriarch had me frothing at the mouth even before I heard it. Decibel has raved about it and a couple of people I know told me this is the real shit. So I was hyped but worried it might let me down. I am happier than a pig in mud to say this exceeds all expectations and this is at worse is a minor masterpiece of oppressive, blackened dirge. The keywords here are sparse, emotional, depressive and raw but there is so much more to this band that meets the eyes and ears. On the surface Atriach sound like a blacker metal version of a Cough or perhaps an even Dopethrone-era Electric Wizard with goth elements thrown-in but after many more spins, even more musical depth came out of it to the point where I am a bit lost for words to describe the album. The album only has four tracks and only lasts a mere 37 minutes but it's enough to demonstrate the overwhelming intensity this band has.

The band does have gothic overtones especially in some of the melodies coming from the extremely emotional guitar playing but this is a bit too intense in haunting minimalism to fit that true gothic tag. This is an album that gets under your skin and eats you from the inside-out rather than blatantly ripping your head off. The writing that has gone into this is diverse and intelligent and the record comes across as a unique cross between modern miminalistic ambient black-metal and early dark-goth stuff. There are traces of bands like Bauhaus along with crushing doom moments so this is an eclectic release indeed.

'Plague' is a captivating opener but bleeds right into another even bleaker and better track titled 'Shadows' and this is where the album had me sold. While 'Plague' is a mesmerizing slow blackened dirge of the track, 'Shadows' pushes the emotions full-tilt into an absorbing dose of haunting and intricate moodiness. The sound is raw but there is a warmness to the guitar and bass while the drums are kept clean but sparse. The vocals didn't make much of a presence for me personally and to be honest, I didn't even think about them till much later in the album but I will get to that. 'Shadows' is beautifully structured with many elements all mixed to perfection from interesting drum patterns and bass grooves to unique guitar ambience.....Excellent track.

'Fracture' is one of the album's more goth-doom moments for a while at least and along with 'Shadows' proves to be the highlight of the album for me. It is rare when minimalist guitar and bass can sound so interesting but Atriach have captured something here that is remarkably dynamic for something so bleak and depressive. The vocals finally make an impression on me here, they range from clean passages to a kind of droning groan; again it is something you don't hear too often. Some folks might think this track is too long but I find its entire length a monumental moment of imposing dark-doom that needs your attention.

The album's last track is titled 'Downfall' and compared with the rest of the album, this one moves along at a driving pace and like the rest of the tracks has its own unique individuality to set it apart from everything else. To me and this might come out wrong but this is the most ordinary track of the bunch; maybe it is because it is the closest track to traditional black-metal or maybe it is because I hear the least genre-bending in this one. Having said that; this is still very good and a good closing track on the album. Unlike a lot of albums reviewed on here I don't know what kind of doom listener will go for this one but I suspect it will be the crossover black metal/goth-doom listener who has a hankering for something a little different - for them this is highly recommended......9/10