I have been keeping my beady ears on Alaric since their debut self released album in 2011 and follow up split with Atriarch the year later. In my opinion they are one of the most authentic sounding groups who tread a post-punk path since the halcyon days of the 80’s. The impression one gets from hearing the new album ‘End of Mirrors’ which sees them signed to none other than Neurot Recordings is that this could have been made by a group of miserable individuals who have spent most of their lives living through the wettest of weekends in Wakefield. Of course we having nothing against Yorkshire here and Alaric could not be further removed from this hailing from Oakland California a place looking sunny, hip and more than a little pleasant. It kind of makes you wonder what is hiding behind its immediate search engine veneer as the place must have something horrible about it considering the music on this new 7 tracker. To call what you are getting here “morose” would be an understatement and a half.
Opener ‘Demon’ despite name is far from snarly but builds moribund textures of stygian gloom and doom up unravelling around slow brooding drum beats and glistening desolate guitar tones. Bass is heavy in the mix throbbing and the song reaches a hefty crescendo before the melody richly embeds and singer Shane Baker oozes charismatic vocals over the top. I guess everyone is going to find similarities to golden days within the roots of this and I am no exception. I guess mid era and best period of The Cure sticks out here instrumentally for me and the vibe and delivery of the vocals seems to draw me towards Richard Butler and The Psychedelic Furs at their most downcast. Despairing though the overall nature of songs like ‘Wreckage’ are they have incredibly strong melodies that stay in your head like a particularly hard to shift bout of depression. The slow ebbing rhythmic patella here is probably going to remind of the likes of groups such as Joy Division and the band do a brilliant job of being completely joyless with it. Although vocals reach a heartfelt peak they and songs do build up from the murkiest of starts and even at times bounce you around they are both passionate but numb and bereft in demeanour. ‘Mirror’ itself has a numbing vibe and with its “don’t look in the mirror” vocal line is far from narcissistic. It’s quite beautiful as far as its gentle melody is concerned and leaves you in a narcotic fog, comfortably floating away on it. It gets urgent and for wont of a better expressions Arises, yep there is some classic Amebix going on here as it chugs into gear, something I have mentioned before within the sound of this crowd. Similarly ‘Adore’ has that British Anarcho punk vibe of futility mixed with a distempered aggressiveness through it as it drives itself into a near psychedelic flurry that has you wondering if nuclear weapons have been unleashed. As for Shrinking World the opening strum had me thinking it was about to burst into a classic Killing Joke cover but that idea is quickly laid to rest as melancholy tones see the band sounding at their most dejected yet. Listen to the lyrics on this one and prepare to be utterly anguished.
If you are looking for something fast and furious and this is the obvious ‘single” it’s the title track that delivers with a crunchy chugging backbone reminiscent of ‘The Wait’ to me and a galloping urgency that really sees the band letting loose almost as though they are unleashing all their pent up aggression in one fell swoop. Last track ‘Angel’ is the complete contrast well and truly putting the nail in the coffin and drenching the listener in one last lamenting dose of downbeat futility. Overall this might be a bit much for those who like looking at life through rose tinted spectacles but for those of us of a more pessimistic nature it speaks with plenty of truth and should definitely touch you. Join us, after all misery loves company!
(8/10 Pete Woods)