Since the release of their self-titled debut full-length album in 2011, Alaric is a band whose name remained loosely on my radar. My interest is always piqued when it comes to contemporary post-punk and death rock-oriented types of projects even if I don’t typically expect to be particularly moved by most of the music produced by bands corralled into these genres. Considering this, when an impressive band surfaces, I’m especially excited to be able to be enthusiastic about their music; which is precisely what happened when I first laid ears on Alaric. Despite the name sticking with me, my enthusiasm for their work and the knowledge that they were writing a new album, the whirlwind of life and daily existence prevented me from realizing that this album had already been recorded and released on Neurot Recordings last May. It wasn’t until I attended 20 Buck Spin and Gilead Media’s inaugural Migration Fest the second weekend of August and witnessed Alaric’s powerful performance there that their sophomore full-length, End of Mirrors, fully came to my attention. After watching their extraordinarily captivating set, followed later with purchasing and listening to their new album in its entirety, it’s clear to see that they’ve progressed in the handful of years that lie between their first release and this latest addition to their catalog while still maintaining their original musical style and focus.
Featuring seven songs clocking in at just under forty minutes in length, End of Mirrors is a record that consists of doom-tinged, heavily post-punk and death rock-laden compositions with bass and tom-heavy percussion, well-crafted and catchy guitar leads, and an absolutely glorious bass tone featuring the necessary chorus and reverb required to appropriately let it shine in its own right within the darkness of this music. Unafraid of creating songs lengthier than your average track, this album manages to unabashedly yet appropriately draw the listener in and out of its songs—such as with the uneasy and eerie soundscapes on the intro of “Demons” and the pummeling drum solo outro on “Adore”—while also maintaining the capacity to get straight to the point, as with my two personal favorite tracks, “Wreckage” and “End of Mirrors.” These are traits which I do so greatly appreciate, and Alaric executes them well. To crown this, Shane Baker’s vocals are a refreshing and remarkable complement to the solid musicianship and song structures found here. His cadence is absorbing, his vocal tone—rather than seeking to sound like someone or something else—is unique and clearly his own, while his lyrics comfortably disclose a personal vulnerability that clearly illustrate a level of torment and tribulation that are connected to his own experience but also concurrently allow room for interpretations to expand beyond a strictly empirical perception, thus establishing a semi-subjective and equally universal tone that feels open yet not excessively revealing. In all facets of the music contained in this album there is a distinct balance to be found that makes it feel both raw and proportionately refined, further enhancing the development of a sound that is markedly their own.
While influences such as Christian Death, Killing Joke, subtle semblances of the Cure circa their Pornography era, and even Neurosis (most notably heard on “Demon”) are present, Alaric have done an excellent job of building something that displays that the band isn’t interested in limitations. In addition to this, with the development of their individual tones and the consequent maturation of their sound heard in this release, this is absolutely the sort of band where after you’ve heard a few of their songs, there really is no confusing them with anyone else despite the obvious nods to various sources of inspiration. That is certainly a rare attribute I’m always grateful to encounter. I’m sure this album would have come to my attention eventually regardless of Migration Fest, but I’m glad my attendance brought it to my attention sooner than later, and it will certainly make its way through my stereo speakers for years to come.
05) Shrinking World
06) End of Mirrors