Altarage – MMXV Demo (Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Sol Y Nieve, 27 September 2015)
Well. Yesterday was pretty much a crap day. I’m not going to go into details because I don’t want to waste time dwelling on it (and you don’t care anyway) but from beginning to end, it was just one of those, like okay what else can go wrong next and why did I even get out of bed today, kind of days.
But today is going to be better, I’m sure of that. It’s still early in the morning and I still feel like I’m sleepwalking, but I’m starting the day off right — filling my ears with angry, aggressive sounds that I’ll gladly share with all of you. We all have a bad day now and then, and could probably use some help coping with it.
So I offer you: Altarage, a mysterious death metal band from Bilbao, in the Basque region of northern Spain. A few months ago the good folks at California’s Sentient Ruin let me know about this band’s two-song demo entitled MMXV, which is very dark and twisted and everything you need to turn that frown upside-down (and then contort it into a kind of devilish scowl)…
The most immediately noticeable thing about “Altars” and “Vortex Pyramid” is the huge amount of atmosphere within these recordings. Like the songs were performed deep in the recesses of an ancient catacomb within an enormous cavern. This may be death metal — the drums, the riffs, everything points in that direction — but it is absolutely produced with a black metal aesthetic, raw and organic.
The vocals here do an excellent job of conveying a wide range of emotion, often all at once: rage and dispair, passion and pain, fear and blinding hatred. The combination of growls and howls sound almost like a bear that’s been caught in a trap and is being poked by someone with a sharpened stick from a safe distance: confused, hurting, angry, and if they take just one more step closer, they are going to have their entire body torn to shreds.
Structurally, this pair of songs takes the listener through a few interesting twists over the course of its ten-minute running length; while fast tempos and double-kicks are used liberally, actual blast-beats are kept to a minimum, serving as accents only, and there are key points in which the tempo becomes mired down into a medium or mid-to-low range, thereby increasing the heaviness factor and briefly becoming mired in more of a sludge territory. Second track “Vortex Pyramid” in particular takes some unexpected turns, completing the journey by being overwhelmed with an increasingly incessant buzzing sound, like being covered and then suffocated by an infinite swarm of flies.
You can buy the demo on cassette from Sentient Ruin here or from Sol Y Nieve here, and you can also listen and download via the Bandcamp player below:
As a cool bonus, after I started writing this article and was browsing the web for relevant links to include, I learned that Altarage actually have a new full-length album coming out in just a few days — 26 February, to be exact — which includes both songs from the MMXV demo and a handful of others. If I find any more information about this, such as a physical release or anything else, I’ll pass the word along, but for now you can pre-order the digital version directly from the band here.
* * * * * * *