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I’ll be quite candid: I was completely unacquainted with the “deathrock” genre before I stumbled upon Atriarch. That I’ve decided to review the Portland, Oregon quartet’s fourth full-length album, “Dead as Truth,” should reveal just how impressive and magnetic it is, despite my lacking the usual contextual background. Rather than trying to fake it in the hopes of defending what would amount to a surface-level argument, I think it’s more authentic to compare the album to the sounds and genres I do understand. Maybe then, if you’re a deathrock neophyte like me, you’ll find these comparisons sufficient enough to fall under the spell of this remarkably mesmerizing release.

A powerful vision guides “Dead as Truth,” a vision that’s dark and hopeless and depressive, but morbidly fascinating as well.

The whole of “Dead as Truth” resounds with a sorcerous, sinister tone. You can learn everything you need from the first few songs: ringing guitars leave chasm-wide space for systematically scattered notes, primal drumming, and enthralling vocals. A powerful vision guides the album, a vision that’s dark and hopeless and depressive, but morbidly fascinating as well. To my uncultured ears, “Dead as Truth” sits on a spectrum somewhere between Mayhem’s avante garde (sometimes obnoxiously so) “Grand Declaration of War” and the latest from The Ruins of Beverast — atmospheric, ambitious, and intoxicating.

Opening track Inferno lulls the listener into an apocalyptic fever dream powered by fuzzy synth, plodding toms, and corrosive, creaking guitars. The vocals crawl up, beetle-like, swaying with wounded, gothic-rock cadence; at the crescendo, they morph into maniacal black metal screeches, drawing the drums into puncturing double-bass sixteenth notes. It’s hazy, grim, and utterly entrancing — and yet it feels like a 7-minute teaser to the real meat of the album.

The tempo — and the intensity — picks up with the second track, Dead. This song carries forward the album’s penchant for rolling toms, unnerving chords, and doom-like repetition, but an urgent sense of self-destructive energy drives this track; you can hear it in the lyrics’ repeated chants of “Su-i-cide!” Though the melody and beats rarely change, the repeating passages generate a dreary, hypnotizing effect a la Rotting Christ, sinking you into a despairing downward spiral.

Promo photo for Atriarch (Portland, OR).

The reason why I think further track-by-track analysis feels redundant — not that each song isn’t worth talking about on its own — is that the motifs are largely the same; they all add up to a potent final package that is best consumed as a whole rather than a la carte. One final commendation for “Dead as Truth” is its length. Bands of Atriarch’s ilk often invite listeners on lengthy journeys of auditory suffering, but “Dead as Truth” avoids this bloat by marrying its atmosphere with compelling, more conventional song structures. The songs move deftly between verses and choruses, drawing you deep into Atriarch’s world of malicious magic. It’s almost doom-like in that you’re expecting a long lead-up into a powerful release, but rather than building that foundation, layer after layer, over many minutes, you reach multiple emotional peaks through a natural feeling of ebb and flow.

We can all recall those rare moments when, sifting through the mountains of available music, we uncover a gem that stops us cold. An auditory offering that both appeals to our hard-won musical tastes yet bends so far beyond them as to be impossible to resist. Scoff at my comparisons all you like — we all have our own private definitions of music labels, just like we have different versions of our own private hells. Whatever version you find in “Dead as Truth,” be that deathrock or black metal or doom, you’re sure to find it a welcoming stay.

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Eric Seal Eric Seal is the head writer at MostlyMetalDad.com. He used to think 'Hellbilly Deluxe’ was a scary album, but he's proud to say he listens to much scarier music now.