Alaric: Alaric

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Alaric: Alaric
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Alaric: Alaric
Doom Metal, Post-Punk
20 Buck Spin Records
October 11th, 2011
Release length: 47:04
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Alaric is a relatively new band to come out of Oakland, only having formed in 2008. They are also one of the more recent signings to 20 Buck Spin Records. For 2011, the band went into the studio to record the seven songs that compose their debut self-titled full-length offering, Alaric. The groups features members of prominant acts such as Noothgrush, Enemies, Cross Stitched Eyes and more, leading to a very formidable force within their style. But, the question ends up being whether this darker musical experience can really hold it’s own in the Post-Punk title.

Aside being a very heavy Punk driven album, the pace of the music itself really does show a very desolate Doom Metal influence to the sound, and that really ends up creating a dynamic album that is dark and at times a bit sinister. Couple that atmosphere with a clean, yet underground sounding audio quality that has the music a little lower in volume to better capture the unsigned Punk and Hardcore scene well without being completely raw or lo-fi. The guitars come through as a much cleaner sound with very little distortion for the most part, having sort of a mid-range sound compared to the louder and deep bass guitar and additional parts of the drum kit. The bass kicks come through with a decent volume to stand out a bit with their lower thud that doesn’t really make much of an impact, but it’s the snares that really help out with this release. The more open sound gives way to a somewhat tribal or marching tone to their performance, which works well with the crawling pace of the music, and the cymbols are a respectable low level up to a rather loud crashing sound that can really dominate the mix when used, though usually kept at a minimum. The vocals here are obviously as clear as the rest of the music, having a clean singing performance that sometimes gets a little rhasp to them, but having enough force and volume that they never get drowned out by the instruments, even when they get to their richest.

The album sets up the tone you’ll experience in every song coming nicely with “Eyes.” The song rings in slowly with acoustic guitars playing a haunting medley until the electrics come in and eventually take over and slowly build on that crawling Neurosis-like sound and pace to establish a tribal sound with the clean to rhaspy vocals giving off a strong, energetic performance against the continually building music and eerily catchy chorus. But, for as impressive as this sort of atmosphere is, and how addicting it can become, not all tracks do end up having as strong a presence as that one does. In fact, the following song “Ugly Crowds” breaks away from such a dark tone and goes more into a traditional Punk style, but still having a bit of a Doom touch to it without the tribal input in the drumming. This allows “Ugly Crowds” to stand out more as a traditional song then one that slowly builds up like “Eyes” and the many others that follow, offering up one of the very few moments of variety in composition to the album. On top of that, it’s also just very well done and overall an infectious track that won’t really leave your mind right away, leaving an impressive impact on the listener despite how different it ends up being compared to the others. And just like that, “Your God” ushers you back into the rather tribal-esque Post-Punk sound once more, though the more energetic sound of the track keeps the darker atmosphere at bay just a little longer.

It’s from that point the album does start to retain the foundation that we were introduced with. Sadly, it works with some songs, but not all. One of the songs here the ends up just feeling less then impressive is “Alone.” The song really tries to bring in additional atmosphere, and that seems to be the damning bit of it all. It just sounds like Alaric is trying too hard in the long run, and the just over six minute track quickly starts to feel like too much is crammed into it, all the while being drawn out in length. But this is one of the very few tracks that comes off this way. “Laughter of the Crows” is the longest track on here, and the band handles it perfectly. The song has a catchy Punk sound to it most of the time, but there’s that slower Post-Punk and slight Doom sound to it with some tribal-esque drumming to it that really makes the song both catchy, as well as a bit unnerving by how it all works to create a rather dark atmosphere that isn’t too rich or pushed to be more then it naturally is through the band’s more traditional compositions as far as the other tracks here go. This leads to a well orchestrated conclusion to the album with the strong and darker “Animal,” which is one of the shorter tracks here that works well to get the point across right away without trying to cram it all together like “Tribute” kind of does in it’s less then five minute length, and “Shadow of Life” just makes for a catchy track all around that caters to the tribal input a bit and stays unique and fresh for the whole song.

The only complaints you can have for Alaric is that not all the tracks really retain that unique sound throughout. After “Alone,” the staple concept to the band’s music is used quite often, but it seems like the band tries to milk it a bit and can lead to some really rich songs that have too much going on, or are just not that interesting due to lack of progression. There’s also the higher pitch vocals that are pretty contrasted to the rest of the album. A bit of a deeper tone with them would have done wonders to the release instead of trying to go with the traditional nasal, energetic and higher Punk vocal approach for the most part. Sadly, the latter of those two problems really seemed to plague the album a little more, and really just made the music sound a quite uninteresting on a number of the songs despite the musical potential that was there to create songs that came off barren, grim, and rather surreal. Sure it doesn’t effectively kill off the songs, but impressive cuts like “Eyes” and “Laughter of the Crows” feel less enjoyable due to the clashing of musical ideas that happens, though with “Ugly Crowds” it felt right at home and really wouldn’t have worked with a deeper vocal tone.

All in all, Alaric show they have what it takes musically, but the higher energetic vocals can be a bit too much. This debut is far from anything jaw dropping, but it does have plenty of good elements to it that are worth making note of. If you’re into the Post-Punk sound, Alaric is a group worth keeping an eye on to see how much and if they grow as a group. But just don’t walk into this self-titled debut expecting the world, as there are some bits to the release that end up doing more damage then good, and it’s clear the band is trying to find their path still in many ways.

01. Eyes – 6:27
02. Ugly Crowds – 6:26
03. Your God – 5:26
04. Alone – 6:08
05. Tribute – 4:50
06. Laughter of the Crows – 7:09
07. Animal – 4:20
08. Shadow of Life – 6:19
Overall Score: 6/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by 20 Buck Spin Records via Earsplit PR.