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Posts Tagged ‘Altar Of Plagues’

Altar Of Plagues, Tides (2010)

What are the Irish always so fucked off about, I wonder?

Following fairly hotly on the heels of last year’s excellent debut album White Tomb comes this hefty (36 minutes) EP from the Irish black metal band Altar Of Plagues.  Another of the almost uniformly-excellent bands on Profound Lore’s current roster, Altar Of Plagues wields a meditative, dense fusion of elemental black metal and the drawn-out song structures of insert-your-favorite-variety-of-“post-“-influenced-metal-here.  This EP, which I seem to recall reading was written on the road (the band thanks the Roadburn Festival in the liner notes), is a nice little teaser for future efforts, and thus is not quite up to the high standard set by White Tomb, but doesn’t quite seem as though it was intended to be.  To put it another way, I think that this band’s style is generally better-suited to the album-length statement, but these two tracks certainly show no precipitous drop in quality.

Of the two lengthy songs on offer here, I think opener “Atlantic Light” comes off slightly better, in large part due to its meatier feel.  (Somewhat ironic, innit, that the track “Atlantic Light” comes off as all-around heavier than the slightly more spacious “The Weight Of All”?)  The track kicks off with a nearly depressive black metal-styled plod, which eventually locks into that stretched-out, black metal/post-rock groove the band lived in so comfortably on previous releases.  The comparison is probably a bit played-out by now, but these guys probably sound closer than anyone else to the pissed-off progeny of Wolves In The Throne Room and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.  “Atlantic Light” is also notable in the vocal department for throwing in some sludgey/noisecore-styled bellowing, which very nicely complements the more traditional post-BM rasping.  These touches, though slight, might even give the band a bit of crossover appeal to fans of the somewhat spacier cast of the sludge/doom/hardcore/post-fucking-whatever spectrum (particularly Minsk, Rosetta, or Mouth of the Architect).

“The Weight Of All” touches on a somewhat wider palette of the band’s sonic and textural repertoire, perhaps unsurprisingly given its nearly 20-minute running time.  Some of the nicest songwriting touches crop up towards the end, where the band goes from washes of ambient/noise drones, into a carefully-paced section of blasting, and then finally into a great momentum-gathering final push of double bass-led gravity.  This is a band which really takes its time developing its ideas, which may require a bit of patience from the listener, but offers a fine contrast to the current glut of tech/death blast-athons.  While we’re on the subject of blasting, the sections of blast-beating are generally few and far-between on this release, but when they crop up, especially in the penultimate  movement of “The Weight Of All,” they have a pleasantly organic, loose, and almost shambolic quality, perhaps attributable to the exceptionally rattle-y snare drum.  Where this slightly off-kilter blasting might sound sloppy if attached to your more garden-variety Satan-and-frostbitten-nipples black metal, I find it carries the the suspended, droning melody of these songs rather nicely.

The production on this EP is quite a bit muddier than on White Tomb, but for some reason it really works well with the songwriting.  The crisp, clear production of the full-length worked well for the band’s sound as well, so I don’t know if the slightly dirtier tone here works only because of the few touches of sludge vocals thrown in, or maybe just because this whole release has the feel of a really promising young band out on the road, impatient to get some new ideas thrown down to tape before the moment passes; regardless, this sounds much more live, and really puts the listener in direct conversation with the mournful hue of these patient, well-crafted songs.  All in all, though I’d much rather hear another full-length from this Irish band, these two songs whet the appetite nicely until the crepuscular, creaking world they apparently inhabit inspires them to further feats of sorrowful, avant-garde bleakness.

Overall rating: 75%, light & weight.

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