ATRIARCH Death-march metal.

ATRIARCH signed with venerable Portland label Relapse Records back in January, joining a roster crawling with heshers like Coffins and Pig Destroyer. But the Portland four-piece don't go for the throat as much as they slice with scalpel-like precision.

Atriarch's third LP, An Unending Pathway, takes their foreboding noise into even darker uncharted territory. The band holed up with local producer/wunderkind Billy Anderson, who's summoned noise from metal acts like Sleep and locals Witch Mountain, in addition to working with non-metalists Swans and Red House Painters.

"We wanted to make the darkest record he's ever made," says guitarist Brooks Blackhawk, noting Anderson's work with Neurosis. "At least one of the darkest."

An Unending Pathway lives up to its name—seven songs that feel like a death march through the bowels of Hades. "Revenant" opens with a marching snare as guitars hover transparently, before the entire thing crashes under the weight of one of the album's heaviest riffs. Blackhawk says the band approached the songs a little differently on this record.

"This time around we'd start with a drumbeat or a bass line—it's more atmospheric," he says. "It's hypnotic music that becomes kind of this entity."

Blackhawk says he's influenced as much by the work of directors David Cronenberg and Stanley Kubrick as he is by Joy Division guitarist Bernard Sumner and the Birthday Party's Rowland S. Howard. Growing up in Olympia, he gravitated more to those bands than anything metal. It explains Atriarch's broad palette, which mixes post-punk, goth, and industrial into something almost metallic. "I would say we are all drawn to the surrealist and esoteric in art, music, and literature."

Atriarch's lyrics seem more steeped in real life, however—whether through anti-establishmentism or exploring the inner self. The band recently dealt with a little real life when bassist Joe Wickstrom had health issues that led to the necessary amputation of his foot. (Trees guitarist Cisco Johnson will take over bass duties for the band's upcoming tour.) "We never know what the future holds," Blackhawk says. "Only that [Joe] will always be our brother whether or not he is directly involved."

For now, Atriarch plans on engulfing audiences on their forthcoming West Coast jaunt. "We don't always come home with money in our pockets, but we get our music out there and that's what matters," says Blackhawk. "If we reach one person at one show in one town on a deep spiritual level, then the entire trip is worth it."