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Alright, I'll start this off simply stating that I've never listened to any deathrock bands, and that I don't really know what "blackened doom metal" is supposed to mean. Is it a slowed down version of depressive black metal, like Tunes of Despair? Is it a mixture of melodic doom and blast beats, like Woods of Ypres? Is it traditional doom with raspy screams and anti-Christian lyrics, like Tristitia? Whatever it is, I can definitely say that Atriarch has a very interesting take on it. Atriarch truly has a sound of their own, without going out of their way to sound avant-garde for the sake of proving their originality. Most of the time, I have no problem thinking of at least ten similar bands for any band I come across. However, Atriarch is something new to me. It's hard to truly define their music, or compare it to other bands. Surely, fans of Wolves of the Throne Room remember a fantastic black metal band called Weakling. Well, a few members of Weakling were also in a band called The Gault. The Gault played a very distorted, psychedelic, experimental mixture of doom metal and shoegaze with vocals that bordered on melodic male vocals and anguished shouts. Well, unfortunately, they disbanded after releasing only one album. Anyways, the influence from The Gault is pretty clear in Atriarch's music, and perhaps some elements borrowed from Burning Witch and Khanate as well.
From what my ears pick up, Atriarch plays a very gloomy type of doom metal that ranges from sludge, to funeral doom, to drone, and at times, depressive black metal. Every moment of Forever the End is bleak, desolate, and dark as hell. Although Forever the End consists of four songs, the music flows like one long song. Each song starts and ends with ambient synthesizers and droning guitar melodies with clean male chants in the background. Eventually, these calm but sinister passages build up to slow, monstrous, crushing riffs topped off with vicious screams. I find Lenny's tormented shrieks (which can also be heard in a similar Portland band known as Trees) even more unsettling than the shrill screeches of Wormphlegm, the chain-choked barks and coughs of Senthil, and perhaps even the insane pig squeals of Nattramn from Silencer. I have no idea as to what he's saying, seeing as how there aren't any printed lyrics. Although, I'm sure just judging from the joyless music and the vague but dark song titles that it can't be about anything too pleasant. While I am impressed by Lenny's brutal screams, his clean voice is what really blows me away. While I've seen a lot of comparisons to Ozzy, I actually think his voice sounds similar to the dark, ghostly chants that came up occasionally on Disembowelment's Transcendence into the Peripheral. His voice is very deep, pretty distant, and sounds like something you would hear while alone in the dark ruins of a haunted monastery. His vocals are buried pretty deep in the mix, almost as if they're only there to compliment the sound of the guitars rather than to play a big role in the music. The way this is done reminds me of how Bosque layers the ambient distorted guitar melodies over the mournful clean vocals. It's a pretty interesting effect that makes you really listen carefully, and it really does bring out the bass and guitar melodies. The riffs are as bleak, down-tuned, and heavy as the typical sludge band, but after really analyzing the tone and notes of the guitar, you can even pick up on some blues influences. Just goes to show how varied the sound of the music is.
I think the only flaw in this album is that it's not really all that much of an album, but more or less an EP. When I came to the end of Downfall, I couldn't help but think "...That's it? No more?". Usually, when a band creates an album that is too short, I can't help but feel like they didn't give themselves enough time to really unfold their potential. Thankfully, this isn't the case with Forever the End. Perhaps if there was one more song and Downfall was just a few minutes longer, this would feel like a complete album, because it almost seems like a teaser for what's to come rather than an actual album. Hopefully, Atriarch will stick around long enough to release a few more albums, because it's very clear to me that they have some good ideas and a LOT of talent. So, with that, I conclude this review to say that anybody with a taste for the darker side of doom metal, depressive black metal, dark ambient, and drone should really be into this. Also, despite how few bands sound similar to this, I think fans of The Gault, Trees, Burning Witch, and Mourner would probably appreciate this. Lastly, while every review I've read for this album seems to have a different label for the band (I've seen black/doom, drone, gothic rock, funeral doom, deathrock, and the dreaded "dark metal" tags thrown around), I see Atriarch's Forever the End as a sludge/doom album. However, no matter how their music is labelled, Atriarch is overall just a special and unique band. I'm sure that even those who won't like this album won't be able to deny its originality.