There is no doubt that great swaths of the underground metal scene are currently fetishizing all things Goth and postpunk. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it has led to some great music, but the whole thing does seem to be teetering on the brink of oversaturation. Good thing, then, that Oakland-based outfit Alaric is out to keep the subgenre fresh and vital with their stunning new record, End of Mirrors.
Out this week on Neurot Recordings, End of Mirrors is a powerful statement which sees Alaric utilizing their growing experience to craft a unique and unpredictable record. Their sound is brooding and menacing, often delaying the gratification of the heaviest moments until they will have the most impact. Most groups, regardless of genre, feel almost universally compelled to start each album with their most energetic material, but Alaric chooses a different path. Opener “Demon” instead begins with shards of abstract noise, although nothing too jarring. Soon, the drums come in with a nice piece of tom work, and then, after a brief set of distorted guitar cadences, the song proper begins with a Goth-inspired verse. This track sets the mood for the album throughout.
Each song does eventually find its way to grittier punk territory. But these bursts are mere emotional punctuation for the creeping dirges that comprise the majority of the material here. It’s not until the title track, near the end of the album, that Alaric spends an entire song raging. Perhaps it’s telling that this piece is by far the shortest on the album. If each song’s heaviest moment emphasizes the emotional climax of the individual piece, then the title track does that for the entire album.
If one were searching for some analogue to the Alaric sound, one would probably look to Killing Joke as the most immediate influence. Jaz Coleman‘s voice certainly holds sway over Shane Baker‘s vocal style and “tribal” drum beats appear quite often throughout the record. But End of Mirrors is certainly more depressive than the usually furious KJ. And more importantly, if Killing Joke seems to focus on the collapsing world stage, Alaric seems to look more toward the gutters.
Alaric certainly isn’t alone in their current genre tags, but End of Mirrors nevertheless succeeds in setting them apart. Their ability to create thick atmospheres and an idiosyncratic listening experience make them a great fit for Neurot’s roster. They come across as being more on the punk end of things despite their relative restraint and while Killing Joke might come up more often than not, one would not be surprised to find out Alaric are influenced by lesser known acts such Zygote, Deviated Instinct, and Rudimentary Peni. But no matter what the case may be, anyone enjoying the postpunk resurgence in metal should take the time to give End of Mirrors a listen.