Altar of Plagues // Teethed Glory and Injury
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —  The price I pay for doubt
Label: Profound Lore Records
Websites: altarofplagues.com  |  myspace.com/altarofplagues
Release Dates: Out worldwide 04.30.2013

AltarI may as well skip describing anything and just post a video of me attempting to eat my own hat. Yes, I was 100% convinced this album would be awful. When the album cover was released and the music video with a black metal interpretive dance was revealed, all I could think about was that they were trying too hard to be “artsy.” Not that I was against the idea of a departure from old themes, mind you — because I was one of the few who couldn’t understand why everyone liked Mammal so much [Speak for yourself, I bashed it good! — Steel Druhm]. The atmosphere of that record was alluringly bleak and distant, yes, but it also had bland drums that made everything boring and songs that were dragged out to double the length they needed to be. This has been a staple throughout their career, but their great debut White Tomb and even greater Tides EP both had a substance and sense of hypnotism that Mammal lacked. I guess descriptions of their old sound are folly though, since Altar of Plagues have made some huge changes here — all of them for the better.

While they keep many aspects of their old, blackened post-metal  sound, the long song structures are all but gone. This allows much more space for natural progression instead of relying on repetition to keep the momentum going. This is a very stark transition for the band to make, but they handled it perfectly. Considering they had already made major changes in the quality of compositions before this new direction, I couldn’t help but think this change would only make it worse. Now all I can do is eat yet another hat, because every single track on this album has something to offer and something fantastic about it. Even the intro serves to set the stage brilliantly with fantastic electronics and samples buzzing away beneath the building tremolo picking, building as masterfully as it is unforgivingly dark.

Thankfully, the electronics are a recurring theme since they add so much to the record’s atmosphere. Some of the heavier moments would be absolutely lost without the wavering, huge electronic bass notes beneath the instrumentation and some of the electronic breaks in the tracks; the latter half of “A Remedy and a Fever” being a prime example. They’re used often, but they’re always tasteful. Imagine the synth sounds used by The Haxan Cloak in a much darker context, often rumbling beneath disjointed, intense black metal. Predictably, it sounds as dark as it is fantastic. Influences of grindcore are certainly here too with much shorter, more sporadic song structures and more immediate bursts of intensity; a choice that hasn’t sacrificed the huge atmospheres the band is known for.

This would all be for nothing if other improvements hadn’t occurred, but thankfully things have progressed by leaps and bounds. The drumming, a serious complaint of mine on their past few records, has turned from some of the most boring black metal percussion to some of the most exciting I’ve heard in recent memory; perfectly handling the disjointed style of the album. The guitar work, while highly reminiscent of their old material, sports a new Deathspell Omega-like tinge which is as pleasing as always, but with a much more fitting production style. The riffs are wonderfully dissonant without sounding pretentiously so to the point of becoming a gimmick (See some Blut Aus Nord material…). The mix of chugging-riffs and huge tremolo picked lead guitars is done in such a way that can’t be mistaken for any other band. They also know just when to utilize the bigger, more intensely distorted chords and guitar work.  The vocals are better too, the rasps being more emotive than ever before.

But the real trump card this album has is that everything seems genuine rather than mere experimentation for the sake of it. Everything is tasteful and sounds like it is meant to be — it sounds like something fresh, but with everything we know and love in torrents. The album progresses so well, brilliant track after brilliant track before closing with perhaps the most memorable number — “Reflection Pulse Remains,” which has an absolutely jaw-dropping lead and riffs that leave you with no choice but to play the album again. This is a serious contender for album of the year and a true force to be reckoned with. I’ve never been more pleased to be proven wrong, despite the awful taste of my hat.

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  • RU63

    I like the God Alone track. Nice write-up, think i’ll buy it.

  • I feel like the scoring system is kind of out of whack on this site… Noctus rates just about everything a 4 or above (five already in 2013), whereas AMG gives obvious year-end material like In Vain and Persefone 3.5’s (not complaining – your reviews of these were great), but rarely rates anything a 4 or above. I feel like their should be some sort of formula here, or at least not the liberal gifting of 4+’s, especially in niche genres like drone or funeral doom… I guess it doesn’t really matter. I love the site and read it daily anyway. Just sayin’…

    • We have a formula and we have posted it before: http://www.angrymetalguy.com/angry-metal-guy-speaks-on-ratings-subjectivity-and-diversity/). Noctus tends to review stuff he likes so that get reflected in his scores. For the most part the AMG staff grades on a tough scale and we don’t throw out 4.0s and 5.0s as easily as many other sites. We also have a policy where we grade down rather than up in case of a close calls. I think by and large, it’s working as designed.

      • Cool. I completely agree with the scale and prefer the grading down over grading up. It’s the most refreshing aspect of this site, and makes everything you and AMG give a 4+ to a gold, shiny “absolute must-check-out-immediately” star. It’s def working too, as I pay close attention when I see a 4 or better from you guys. I guess my suggestion is that Noctus might want to lay off giving mostly everything he reviews a 4 because it dilutes the impact of a high rating. 10 of his 15 reviews have been 4’s or better.

        • Thanks for the feedback, Donald. We are ever vigilant against the scourge of grade inflation.

        • Noctus

          There has been about 1 review I felt I was too generous with (though I respectfully request you ignore my earlier reviews before 2012 since there aren’t any and there was a 3 year gap between them) but I stand by the others.

          There has been a fair share of negative/neutral reviews though. Moss, Total Negation, Amenra, arguably Merrimack which just scraped a 3, and that’s just recently.

          Also consider that the other guys do more reviews than me, too. If I did more reviews I think you’d find it was more balanced.

          I appreciate the feedback but I don’t think it’s entirely fair. Oh well, maybe you’ll enjoy some of my upcoming, less rave-like reviews (but I won’t go into details yet…)

          • Indeed, thanks for clarifying! I didn’t know you hand-picked your reviews. Makes a lot more sense now that there are some elevated scores. Glad the staff handled my inquiry with some poise and not the nearly requisite “cool story, now fuck off” that you get on a lot of other metal sites. Thanks guys!

          • Noctus

            No problem! Generally I try and only write about stuff that I really have something to say about. If we’re ever stumped on a review another reviewer can step in, which is the beauty of a site that has several reviewers. Being passionate about a record generally promotes the idea that you’re more than likely one way or the other (being passionately meh about an album is rather unusual, but does happen occasionally!) which may make it look like we’re being far more generous with positive reviews.

            Also, our readers are the most important aspect of the site – we’d have no reason to respond to you and take what you say seriously. We write for you, after all, not the bands!

          • We try to stay classy. Thanks for your comments!

    • NO OBJECTIVITY!!!!! Dont ask, AMG will skool you brah. Subjective reviews rule the land.

      • It’s nice to see my reputation proceeds me…

        • Matt Jackson

          nice to see your spelling precedes you ;)

          • Nice to see that an error doesn’t get passed anyone on the internet. ;)

          • Matt Jackson

            haha. Great reviews and site btw. Introduced me to the wonders of Diablo Swing Orchestra and loads of other amazing bands :)

          • Glad you like it, proof reader! Keep coming back, it’s hard to copy edit your own stuff.

    • Noctus

      In the past month alone I’ve had two 2/5 reviews so I don’t really understand where this criticism is coming from. I’ve had 8 reviews so far this year, 3 of which negative, that being nearly half of them.

      Metal is basically a culmination of different niches so I’m not going to rate something down just because it’s niche.

    • Noctus has written a lot more positive reviews, but that’s partially because he’s writing reviews of whatever he wants. That is changing and you’re seeing that his scores are coming down. Scores on this site have historically inflated, but It’s a problem that I addressed and Steel Druhm linked below (or above?).

      Part of the reason that I haven’t rated anything over 4 is because there hasn’t been anything that is obvious year end material for me yet. Still, I would have rated The Ocean higher than Noctus did actually, as its my favorite record of the year.

      Anyway, thanks for reading. We try to keep things on an even keel, but in the end it’s all just one dude’s opinion, right? And if for him this is an excellent record that will definitely be fighting for a place in his top 10, then that’s what he calls it.

    • Does the rating really matter though? I usually don’t bother with the numbers, I pick articles up based on genres and albumart most of the time, read the review, check it out and make up my own mind.

      This album is intense by the way. So good. Reminds a bit of Celeste (France), who have been doing this Blackmetal/Hardcore/Post-Metal thing themselves for a few years now. Great band too.

  • Review please Todtgelichter – Apnoe it looks very, very good…

  • A review on another blog – NCS – got me listening to this album, and being half-way through this monster I can say it’s bloody fucking fantastic. It’ll take a lot more spins to get to the essence of this beast, but I’m liking everything I hear thus far. A lot.

    As for high grading that someone mentioned; I also fell in love with both In Vain’s as Persefone’s new record, and I would’ve graded them higher than 3.5 if I were to give a score; but fuck it, this site introduced me to both so the hell with those scores anyway.

  • I too thought Mammal was a bit of a dud. It seemed to have plenty musical ideas that didn’t really went anywhere. But they really switched gears here. The industrial influenced sounds are greatly integrated and they seem to have really matured a lot in these years. It was a nice surprise for me that the record is this good because I think I’ve had too many dissapointments with bands I like in this year.

  • hubcapiv

    “Noctus has written a lot more positive reviews, but that’s partially because he’s writing reviews of whatever he wants. That is changing and you’re seeing that his scores are coming down. ”
    ===
    Poor Noctus. IT PUTS THE LOTION IN THE BASKET.

  • Sivaram Konanki

    I see that this blog hasn’t covered Krallice. Some Krallice style pickin’ in this album too.

    • Noctus

      Love me some Krallice. Not 100% sure I hear it in this album, though.

  • Sivaram Konanki

    A hell lot of electronics + harsh noise with less black metal aesthetic.
    Some of the tracks here are very densely layered. Exhilarating and strange simultaneously. It might take more spins to get through it completely, but it’s completely worth the time spent.

  • This is not my type of band, but maybe one week I’ll gave a chance…because i’m not a big fan of Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega.

  • You want good black metal?? Listen to the new MasseMord álbum…