Once I upgraded my musical reading from Smash Hits to N.M.E, Melody Maker and Sounds I remember well the tag of most miserable band in the world being thrown around a lot. It normally went in the direction of The Smiths, Joy Division and The Cure and naturally I loved all three bands. With the new Atriarch landing and on listening to this completely glum and depressive album I started thinking about this again. Surely the Portland group must be a contender? Looking at similar lists online, they seem to be full of utter gash for whiny Indie fans, sure the aforementioned trio and Nick Cave certainly all get a mention but a lot of what passes for miserable with the kids of today seems far from depressing apart from the fact that a lot of it simply exists! Anyway, my point is that Atriarch definitely deserve a position in a true list and ‘Dead As Truth’ is a slab of absolute misery if ever I have heard one. Nothing emo about it, don’t get me wrong, this is music for adults, mature in construction and expression but if you are looking for something happy you won’t find it here. Having been following the group since ‘Forever The End found its way to me in 2011, I can’t say that any of this particularly surprises me.
We get 6 tracks and just over half an hour so at least the misery isn’t that long, indeed one could say that this is more of an EP than an album but it’s not surprising they wanted to get something out and prove they were still on this mortal coil as last album ‘The Unending Pathway’ was several years ago. ‘Inferno’ pulses in like a throb at the end of the world and gloomy guitar lines reverberate and uncoil. The post-punk credentials ooze out, this is very Bauhausian and is slowly enriched by the decayed vocals of Lenny Smith informing us that “this is hell” and filling the slow musical canvas with the very shroud of death. Blimey, grab the razor-blades, this would probably reduce Trent R to tears. Vocals veer from clean and austere to wretched and elongated cries of torment, the drums and bass thickly coat everything in bottom end and guitars slowly slash and hack away. The song is fairly lengthy and like the vocals stretched out wretchedly, at least the band shorten things with the next couple but that doesn’t make them any less sharp and cutting in commentary or mood. ‘Dead’ for instance speaks for itself and sees the singer continuing with one of his most harrowing vocal displays screaming out what sounds like the word ‘suicide’ for all the world to hear. Musically you could compare with the work of Vega and Rev too, along with the jangling charge of bands ranging from Theatre Of Hate to The Jesus And Mary Chain. This lot certainly have their inspirations and credentials nailed down here. Huge yells of disgust and massive drum rolls pile out the speakers like an autistic temper tantrum before ‘Devolver’ rolls in and trundles away with tribal drums and a cold edge straight out the 80’s harrowing the listener with harsh panic inducing fear every step of the way.
So synonymous with the time it seems completely wrong not turning over a slab of black vinyl to get to the second half and listening to this on MP3. It’s no less depressive over on side b) with skeletal guitars and bleak drumming rhythms filling out ‘Void’ another longer trawl through depressive landscapes without a glimmer of redemptive therapy behind it. It rears up and bites hard with vocals that feel as if they need meshing in a straightjacket before the opposing dull pound of the drums and cleaner parts medicate them, the two opposing contrasts continuing in a vicious circle. ‘Repent’ is far from redemptive and sees things hitting a peak with massive weltering drums, scything guitars and the subject title whipped into a frenzy. After the rise the fall comes quite naturally as final track ‘Hopeless’ screams out the futility of it all amidst a gloomy musical backbone that offers not one glimmer of light.
Yep these bastards are more than happy being miserable and are determined to take you with them. Paradoxically that makes me happy but be warned if you want to join this particular party it’s all likely to end in tears!
(8/10 Pete Woods)