Pagan Altar – The Time Lord (11 September 2012, Shadow Kingdom Records)
Dear Readers — by now I assume most of you have heard the sad tale of Ed Barnard, from the website Doommantia?
If not, the Readers’ Digest Condensed version goes something like this: after some major health-related issues, then came the astronomical medical bills, which led to serious financial struggles, culminating in the loss of his home. Reportedly, he is now sleeping in a tent somewhere — you can read more at Doommantia (here might be a good place to start).
First of all, I think the whole situation is utter bullshit — something like this shouldn’t happen to anybody. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen to anybody. This is the sort of thing people need to keep in mind when they complain about health care reform, or when they look down upon unemployed and/or homeless people as the result of laziness (or whatever). The point is, shit happens, and it can happen to anybody. At one time or another, we all could probably use a little bit of assistance. Right now, it seems, would be one of those times for Mr. Barnard.
Additionally, I’ve just learned this morning that the Maryland-based doom band War Injun has made it known that they are in the process of putting together a benefit concert to help raise some funds. It will be held on a date yet to be announced, in Frederick MD. No other details are available yet, but here is the preliminary announcement.
Frederick is only a few hours from where I live, so depending on when this takes place, I’ll definitely do my best to be there. If you are somewhere around the area, you should too. If not, well, you can check out Doommantia here, and please note that there is a Paypal donation button embedded on that page. Every little bit helps.
Anyway, it’s interesting that I found out about this today, because it ties in with the post I was already planning on publishing. In addition to the excellent collection of reviews and articles featured on the website, Ed also had a hand in the internet radio station Foundry of Doom. (If I remember correctly, a few years ago the station was forced to cease operating — due to whoever originally ran it having financial trouble of his own, I believe — when Doommantia stepped in and resurrected it.)
Sadly, FOD Radio is no longer broadcasting at this time, but I used to spend countless hours listening to it at work, often discovering some amazing music, both new and old. Before I found that station, of course I was well-versed in some of the bigger names of doom metal — Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Candlemass, and so on — but I found myself getting quite an education.
One of the most significant discoveries I made around that time was the UK’s Pagan Altar — in fact, I can still remember how quickly I was hooked the first time I heard their song “Satan’s Henchman.” I think it’s a crime that this band doesn’t get quite the recognition that some of their peers do, and consider them to be seriously underrated.
So anyway, I guess you could say Doommantia is responsible (either directly or indirectly) for my high level of excitement when I learned that Shadow Kingdom Records had plans to release some Pagan Altar music that had never before been available on CD! This long-out-of-print EP of old demo recordings — some dating back to the band’s beginnings in the late 70s — is called The Time Lord, and it’s officially available from SKR as of today!
In the words of label owner Tim McGrogan:
“Pagan Altar is arguably the very best band in the ENTIRE world that have flew under the radar for far too many years. It gives me great pleasure to announce this amazing EP release. This NWOBHM band is still going strong as they have wrote a mountain of music that has since been released over the years on their very own label. These are the oldest known recordings to exist dating all the way back to 1978! These are demo recordings and they didn’t properly record a few of these other songs until later on. These demo recordings are the birth of what I believe is one of the very best bands ever existing. This album has atmosphere written all over it and there’s no one that remotely sounds like Pagan Altar. Bands and people today are just discovering these sounds for the first time and now they influence a ton of music that’s being written today in the metal world. The CD version has been re-mastered to scrub and preserve this recording to the best possible sound that we can deliver. This has only been released on vinyl until now.
Considering the fact that the five songs here were just made as demo recordings, and not intended to be officially released, the sound quality is pretty decent — in this remastered version, I’d say The Time Lord could stand alongside records of many of the band’s contemporaries without suffering from the comparison.
These songs definitely represent the band’s niche in metal history, spanning from the hard rock “proto-metal” years through the inception of doom metal and beyond. Shades of early British metal influences such as Deep Purple are very prevalent here, especially on the first couple songs, but Pagan Altar also incorporate some sounds traditionally associated with American southern hard rock — in particular, the title track seems to recall some of the long-form guitar jams of Molly Hatchet or the Allman Brothers Band.
With “Judgement of the Dead” and subsequent tracks, the band really seem to have found their voice in the early doom metal style — full of Sabbath-esque riffing, along the lines of the kind of stuff Pentagram were doing at the time.
The Time Lord offers a fascinating snapshot into the history of a band that has been wrongfully overlooked for far too long, as well as encapsulating the evolution of the NWOBHM into doom metal. Fans of these styles will definitely want to pick up a copy, and be sure to keep an eye on Shadow Kingdom too, as I’ve heard whispers that there might be reissues or repressings of other Pagan Altar material on the horizon as well!
Furthermore, Pagan Altar were one of the first batch of bands confirmed for next year’s Maryland Deathfest XI! (Scheduled to take place Memorial Day weekend, 23-26 May 2013; full details can be found here.)
You can listen to the whole EP, and buy a download if you wish, at SKR’s new Bandcamp page:
The CD is available for purchase here.