ALTAR OF PLAGUES
Since its release in 2009, Altar of Plagues’ debut full length, ‘White Tomb’, has become an underground classic, garnering much credibility for its potent atmospheres, epic structures, and paralysing depiction of a post-apocalyptic world. Idiosyncratic and innovative, Altar of Plagues sophomore album ‘Mammal’ continues with the themes explored in its predecessor and is equally, if not, more unsettling in its protracted black ambience. Encapsulating both calm grief and pessimistic grandeur in its immense philosophical soundscapes, ‘Mammal’ is mournful and melancholic, the lengthy compositions, ranging from eight to just over nineteen minutes in length, are organically sublime silhouettes of the human condition. ‘Neptune is Dead’ is a nineteen minute cinematic depiction of a barren wasteland, exploring desolate and demonic musical mania. A visceral opener, the track shifts between open plains of black metal strummed chords and forlorn melodies to ethereal and ominous ambient passages. Monolithic and earthy, ‘Feather and Bone’ is a slow burning and reverberating track featuring intricate drum patterns amongst the unrelenting blast beats. ‘When the Sun Drowns in the Ocean’ opens with the cry of an old Irish funerary custom (known as “keening”), a vocal lament sang over the corpse of the deceased that was a tradition that the Church abolished in the early part of the 20th century. A clear nod to their Irish heritage, at just over eight minutes this is the shortest track here, though no less effective in its preservation of a significant part of a culture that would otherwise remain lost to a soon-to-be-forgotten history. ‘All Life Converges to Some Centre’ is, again, monolithic in its density, a vicious sonic maelstrom of stark images of decay and sorrow. History is the merciless eradication of cultures deemed inferior to the self-awarded “superiority” of myopic despots too arrogant to see the numerous shortcomings in their ideology to embrace and celebrate difference. The catharsis of ‘Mammal’ is to recognise that there’s no redemption awaiting us, only an all-consuming finality that must be recognised. And only in embracing this inevitability can the truth of absurdity be encountered. Profound in its pitiless, transcendent, and, ultimately, liberating portrayal of the absurdity of human endeavour, all four tracks, when ingested wholly, are greater than their sum making the primitive and intensely honest ‘Mammal’ an intelligent and compelling work. Essential.
Review by Jason Guest
25th April 2011
1) Neptune is Dead
2) Feather and Bone
3) When the Sun Drowns in the Ocean
4) All Life Converges to Some Center
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Profound in its pitiless, transcendent, and, ultimately, liberating portrayal of the absurdity of human endeavour, all four tracks, when ingested wholly, are greater than their sum making the primitive and intensely honest ‘Mammal’ an intelligent and compelling work."