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Atriarch – An Unending Pathway

Much has been said about fear and its relationship with the human condition: as an emotion, a tool, a weapon, etc. The most effective aspect of fear is dread. Whether it’s the hair standing up on the back of your neck, a pit in the bottom of your innards, or just an overwhelming sense of unease driving you mad, those moments of unknowing are scarier than any evil clown or hellbeast some other guy dreamt up. Dread is also the blackened lifeblood that courses through An Unending Pathway, elevating Portland doom crew Atriarch into the underground metal elite.

2013 saw In Solitude triumph with their third album, Sister, an amalgamation of influences that could have been an unfocused mess in lesser hands. Atriarch follows a similar trajectory and shares some musical tastes as well. Lead track “Entropy” morphs from creeping whispers and chants to deathrock vocals and an immediately catchy guitar line. “Collapse” continues the theme with rumbling bass lines and droning, open notes. That drone encapsulates the previously mentioned sense of dread permeating Pathway. Where some (okay, most) “drone” metal bands fail is at the line between repetition and boredom. Atriarch never play their hand too long, focusing on an entrancing movement until the breaking point then laying waste with frostbitten breakdowns. It’s equivalent to a horror film heroine shambling away when the entire audience knows the killer isn’t dead yet.

There are some ventures outside the proverbial Dead Zone; “Bereavement” is an absolutely ripping swath of pure metal, with drummer Maxamillion alternating effortlessly between black metal blast beats and Mental Funeral-style dirges. The last several tracks blur together, which is a positive thing here. They have an ebb and flow, dark to extra dark, which makes for seamless connections between them. The final track, “Veil,” puts it all on the table: marauding riffs, tortured vocal incantations, and an overall sense of crush that exists in an alternate universe where getting your head crumpled in a vice is orgasmic. An Unending Pathway is mandatory Halloween listening and one of the last great albums of 2014.

—Chris Rowella

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