The past year has been a busy one for Portland based enigmatic death rockers, Atriarch. The dudes have strung together a series of successful West-Coast mini tours (whose crushing sonic mire you will drown beneath), put out an awesome split with Alaric, and are now on the verge of dropping a heavy-hitting dose of the black abyss with an accompanying tour for Ritual of Passing, the band’s follow up to last year’s excellent Forever the End. I recently had the chance to chat with vocalist and frontman Lenny Smith about the direction of the new album, the symbolism found throughout the music, and the impending US tour. Check out the full interview and tour dates after the jump!
Right off the bat it seems evident that Ritual of Passing is a much more focused, perhaps up-front album than Forever the End in terms of the straight-forward way the subject matter is tackled. Where Forever the End seemed to focus much more on crafting a mood through dense atmosphere, Ritual seems to scale back the droning synths a bit in favor of more decipherable vocals. What spurred the decision to shed the former album’s somewhat ethereal quality?
This wasn’t as much a conscious decision as a matter of production. FTE was recorded on a very low budget. We now have a full time synth player and will never stray too far from the ethereal. Our outro (on Ritual of Passing) is a throwback to those qualities as well as a preview of things to come. Having said that I must admit that we have been feeling more aggressive and this shows in our music. The lyrics are important to all of us and the decision to mix them more up front came naturally.
The added aggression is definitely palpable in everything released after FTE. How had you been handling the more ambient tracks in the live setting prior to having a synth in the lineup?
Songs from FTE sound more aggressive live and songs from ROP more ambient. so they meet somewhere in the middle. we haven’t actually played live with Garek yet, but am looking forward to having the ambient interludes from our recordings in a live setting.
There’s a very looming sense of rebellion against many of contemporary society’s pillars within Ritual, so much so that it almost seems like a concept album. Prayer’s mocking chorus is an excellent example of what seems to be the album’s central theme of absolute disgust with religion’s influence over the human mind as a whole. I have to wonder, were any of the tracks written to take aim at specific events that have transpired within the past few years? Is there perhaps anything less obvious tying the tracks together?
Not really. The older I get that harder watching this bullshit becomes. I feel the underlining ideas of the 2 albums as well as the split are very much the same. Fracture is the perfect example of this. The lyrics on FTE are just less discernible and less angry.
I find it interesting to see occult imagery and subject matter being used to almost instill or encourage a sense of unity through shared oppression, especially in Altars. Perhaps you’d be willing to talk about the role of embracing one’s enemies as kin, and the role of love and unity in the midst of such dark, atmospheric music. Where do they fit into the overall thematic direction of Ritual of Passing?
Lack of love is exactly what creates this oppression, and the darkness of our music is a reflection of this loveless oppression that we are forced to endure every day. Without love it’s all meaningless. Love is the only thing that matters and the only thing that can change this fucked up world we live in.
Some of the lyrics that struck me the hardest, ‘For if there’s a time to make a change, it is now’ and ‘we were not born to serve’ almost come across as warnings. Is this more of a call for an internal change of the self, or a call to some form of external action? Where does the band see the state of this country now (or the world, if that is your intended scope) and where will we be if these changes don’t happen?
We are spiraling down the abyss. Blinded by products, superficial images, false ideals of happiness, computers, our online profiles, advertising, ect… This will continue until there is nothing left inside of any of us unless we reject these false gods and except each other for what we are…
I completely agree. I know more than a few people have been placed in an odd conundrum recently with the recent spike in corporate sponsored festivals, tours, albums, etc. I do really appreciate the opportunity to see killer small bands for free, but it seems… odd that it’s come in the form of a sponsorship from a car company. What’s your take on the trend’s ultimate impact or influence, if any, on the smaller music scenes that Atriarch grew forth from?
The track Offerings appeared first on the split you released with Alaric last Spring, and I remember being completely blown away the first time I heard it. Was the track originally conceived of within the thematic scope of Ritual? Why the decision to rerecord it?
We did have another track, but it just didn’t seem to fit after demoing and listening back to it. Damon (our new bass player) brought something new to offerings that we wanted to share. Doing this made the album flow much better.
Has Atriarch been through many lineup changes during its existence? How does bringing in new musicians change the dynamic of what appears to be a group of close friends?
Yes, and it varies from show to show. I can’t say that its because of the size of the venues or the bands we’re playing with. I think it has to do with the level of involvement from the audience… How immersed they become in the ritual strengthens our connection…
I get the impression that the ritualistic aspect of the band’s live performance has it has a very genuine and personal feeling about it. To what extent have the spiritual beliefs of the band bled into your live acts?
In every way. You cannot have one without the other. The genuine feeling of the ritual stems from our belief.
I’d like to thank Lenny personally for taking the time to get back to me on all of these. Atriarch’s Ritual of Passing drops October 30th on Profound Lore and I can assure you it fucking kills. Peep the dates below and get out to one of these shows – you will not be sorry.