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Atriarch - "Ritual of Passing" (CD)

Atriarch - "Ritual of Passing" CD cover image

"Ritual of Passing" track listing:

1. Parasite (5:51)
2. Prayers (5:29)
3. Altars (6:10)
4. Altruist (5:43)
5. Offerings (5:52)
6. Cursed (7:29)
7. Outro (Lucifer Speaks With Death) (3:48)

Reviewed by on November 23, 2012

"Atriarch had a concrete foundation in place with 'Forever The End,' but made it a bit more unstable with 'Ritual Of Passing.'"

Last year, Oregon’s Atriarch released the doom-centric black metal sounds of “Forever The End.” The four songs were downright depressing, one step away from suicidal and effective for all misanthropes alike. No time is spent letting that album soak in, as the band has returned with “Ritual Of Passing,” their first album since signing with Profound Lore Records. “Ritual Of Passing” is not as tough to get into as their first album, with shorter songs and an increase in melodic vocals being factors, but it also isn’t as gripping due to a few stylistic leaps that lack the intensity of “Forever The End.”

A point of contention will likely be Lenny Smith’s greater reliance on less aggressive vocals. While he did use them to fine effect on “Forever The End,” the vocals were never a large part of the music. They were dug into the background, as the guitars and drums overpowered them. They are more up front in the mix on this album, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. His melodic tones are no match for hoarse screams that come into play on the more contentious black metal passages. It’s nice to be able to understand the lyrics, but not when it comes at a price of not fitting the music as well as they should.

Though this album could be categorized as black metal, don’t expect much of that to come from the first half. It’s mostly a controlled environment of well-paced doom metal, with the bass up loud to tame the guitar work. Keyboards give an eerie feel to the early moments of “Parasite,” and Smith goes on a rant during “Prayers” that includes the advice, “Hands together, on your knees. Fall into submission, grovel...”

“Alturist” is the first song to infuse “Ritual Of Passing” with some life due to the inclusion of harsh vocals and a wonderfully unhinged breakdown of tremolo-picked mass chaos. This song starts a series of excellent ones that introduce more black metal components, including a sonic array of dissonance dished out on “Offerings.” Too bad that this is followed up by the seven-minute “Cursed,” which spends minutes building itself up for an explosion of noise that never materializes.

Atriarch had a concrete foundation in place with “Forever The End,” but made it a bit more unstable with “Ritual Of Passing.” The band has gone through changes of sorts in only a year, and they may divide fans who fell for the band’s blackened doom approach. That is still a structural normality for these seven songs, but the bland vocals and lack of payoff on the longer songs hurts the album’s value. Those looking for the best the album has to offer should stick to the songs that come after “Altars” and leave the rest aside.

Highs: Strong collection of songs in the second half, eerie atmosphere supported by solid amount of keys and ambience

Lows: Vocals are a step below the last album, lacks intensity that was prevalent in the band's previous material, lack of payoff on several songs

Bottom line: Atriarch tries out shorter songs and heavier use of keyboards and melodic vocals in with the blackened doom to mixed results.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)