Metal was in an awkward transitional place when I was in high school. For example, I distinctly remember seeing Warrant, Trixter, and Firehouse somewhere in Illinois the summer after Cherry Pie came out. Metallica’s “Black Album” came out my senior year and I played the hell out of it, but I probably played Nevermind even more frequently. For the most part, though, I was a miserable little fuck back than and listened to a lot of gothic/post-punk: The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Bauhaus.
Fucking hell, did I love Bauhaus. It didn’t matter that they had broken up before I discovered them, or that I didn’t really like Love and Rockets or any of Peter Murphy’s solo stuff. I fell in love with “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” the first time I heard it, and still think their first two albums – In the Flat Field and Mask – are essentially perfect.
Dead as Truth, the fourth full-length from Portland’s blackened doomsters Atriarch, sounds an awful lot like Bauhaus.
That’s not a slight on Atriarch, or any kind of suggestion that their music sounds derivative. I’ve been a fan since their second album Ritual of Passing, and that gothic influence has always been a part of their sound. The thing about Atriarch, though, is that they’re always evolving. No two Atriarch records sound quite the same, but they all still sound like Atriarch. Their last full-length, 2014’s An Unending Pathway, was a despondent yet aggressively tribal-sounding record that showed off the band’s Swans and Neurosis influences. Dead as Truth, on the other hand, is pure gothic deathrock all the way.
Not every metal band can pull of a mellower sounding record, but the style suits Atriarch well. There are still blown-out passages of distorted guitar on the record, but they’re much fewer than on past releases. Instead, tracks like “Void” and “Hopeless” feature sparse, more bass-forward arrangements. The more aggressive tracks like “Dead” and “Repent” feel more anxious than what a metal fan might think of as heavy. As always, vocalist Lenny Smith is the album’s MVP. His performance ranges from a wounded croon that sounds uncannily like Peter Murphy to harshly emotive screams, and his lyrics drip with self-loathing and despair.
Ultimately, Dead as Truth is an album characterized more by its dark moods than any kind of sonic violence. However, it more than makes up for its lack of traditional heaviness with its sheer emotional weight. Make no mistake – this is a fucking depressing record. But it’s also the perfect soundtrack for spending half an hour wallowing in your own misery.
Dead as Truth will be available on August 11 via Relapse Records.