Dark punk, goth, death punk, no wave, just a few tags that can be used to describe the immense and infectious sounds on the debut self titled album from Californian punk band Alaric. Rippling and bristling with mesmeric and inciting rhythms, dark probing riffs, plus contagious hooks and scorching melodies the album is steeped in 80’s dark essences and sounds that emerged between punk and the lighter goth musical shadows. Though distinctly tempered with modern sounds and forceful attitude the layers of influences are undeniable and thoroughly additive.
The Oakland quartet consisting of members past and present from the likes of Noothgrush, Enemies, Cross Stitched Eyes, Dead & Gone, UK Subs formed in 2008, three friends wanting to explore the Post-Punk and Death Rock genres they loved, taking their dark textures and energy and bringing them into their own guitar-driven creative sounds. 2009 saw them debut their music live to immediate acclaim and great demand. A two song demo with ex-Phantom Limbs guitarist Skot B at his Kempton House Studios in Oakland was recorded whilst writing and gigs continued and then in 2010 the band returned to join Skot B in recording tracks for their debut album released October 11th via 20 Buck Spin.
The stunning ‘Eyes’ opens up the eight track release upon a haunting searching guitar that soon expands into a enthralling and immersing sounds alongside expressive vocals. A deep resonating bass line stalks the song as the guitars pulsate throughout. The sound is a mix of 80’s Killing Joke and Sex Gang Children blended with the dark melodies of Bauhaus. There is also the dark punk intensity of the likes of Christian Death and Theatre Of Hate lining the track with intent and venom.
The tracks from start to finish on the album are strongly varied and engagingly incessant all within the core dark punk sound and attack. ‘Ugly Crowds’ opens on a ‘Seventeen Seconds’ era Cure bass and guitar sound before merging a running throbbing mid pace grind with guitars that find deeper depths and corners to play in, inspiring thoughts of Gene Loves Jezebel . The vocals and their delivery lay somewhere between the likes of Brandon Kirk/Andi Sex Gang and Pete Murphy, constantly edging towards the first two but showing restraint to sound more like the latter but also distinctively different.
‘Your God’ completes an opening trio of tracks that are as well as being equally the best on the album also make it one of the most gloriously satisfying and strongest albums this year so far, not that the remaining songs let the levels or enjoyment drop but these three ‘classics’ really leave a mark deeply and permanently. ‘Your God’ beats its chest on a strong Killing Joke like bass riff and beat that beckons and receives whole hearted approval. The song probes, suggests and inspires with its challenging intent and sentiment showing the band’s skill musically and lyrically.
Despite so many references and sounds that remind the ear of many other bands and songs, the album is never predictable or unable to firmly hold one’s attention and willing focus. Songs like the sorrowful and pained ‘Alone’, the hypnotic monotone crawl of ‘Tribute ‘burrowing deep into the ear, and the pulsating primal and predatory ‘Animal’ where the band raise the intensity with cutting riffs and powerful surges of sound any metal band would long for, all demand and get every sense and thought solely to themselves, the listener immersed within their dark soundscapes of refreshing and consuming music.
Alaric with their album have shown music that is often discordant, unashamedly retro at times, and on the whole sonically apocalyptic, but most of all it is a release that completely feeds and pleasures the senses with its twisting manipulating hooks and dark shadowy atmosphere. Those that long for the days when Killing Joke ruled the dark side now have a new champion in Alaric.