Altarage‘s debut turned quite a few tar-covered heads, each new adherent drawn in by its tendrils of sticky ooze, a concoction of lo-fi hideousness that languished in the bogs somewhere between Portal and Teitanblood. Not the most original of albums, but it pounded a chord for metalheads oppressed by melody and clean production. I liked Nihl, but it didn’t live up to the hype for me. Sure it was brutal: brutal enough, even – but I found inconsistencies in it that poked streams of clarity through its clotted gutters. Occasionally there would come about a riff that just seemed too… metal. Some riff that was obvious or simplistic that reeked of war metal’s tired tropes and interrupted the album’s slow vomit.
I’m pleased to report that Endinghent, contrary to expectations, vomits almost continuously. My issue with Nihl was its inability to sustain the impenetrable Portal-isms that make a good Portal record: the atonal riffing so suffocated under distortion that picking out melodic structure is a fool’s errand; the incessant blastbeats that seem to shift out of themselves like a Fraser spiral; the bass rubbing against a rubbery film of noise above it. Endinghent nailed the aesthetic this time, and so like any Portal album, its challenge is not convincing you of its seriousness, it’s keeping your attention.
Of course, that’s contingent on how heavily you’re willing to buy into the sound Endinghent produces. For many, it will be thunderous claptrap, completely nonsensical and superfluous. For others, it’s a 30-some minute fix of sweet black-tar hideousness. If your’e on the left hand side of that spectrum, it’s a good bet that this disfigured, dripping monolith of overcompressed barbarity will park itself in your eardrums long enough to start collecting bird shit. Tracks like “Incessant Magma” and “Weighteer” might plod along, but the slow speed is more than appropriate for those being dragged into their viscous wake. “Atmosphere” doesn’t cover what this album has – “atmosphere” isn’t meant to refer to a near-solid mass. A moment in this “atmosphere” would give you the lungs of a chain-smoking coal miner.
Altarage have thrown in some variety as well, like the incessant, twisted cascade of descending arpeggios that run for an entire minute in the beginning of “Rift.” Positioned in the middle of Endinghent, it breaks up the morass around it enough to make the second half of the album sound fresh(-ly putrid) again. The b-side of Endinghent doesn’t depart from the expected deluge, but it does bring out some of the album’s heaviest riffs, as in “Weighteer,” and its most spacious and pensive passages. The crawl-out at the end of “Barrier,” closes the album commendably, fading the colored world back into existence, wiping through the sticky grime of this lovecraftian nightmare – one which passed without a single blockheaded riff.
From a production standpoint, Endinghent hits the nail in the head as well. It’s suffocating without sounding lo-fi and comfortable (relatively) to listen to despite its volume and dense mix. Especially pleasing is the bass guitar’s place in the space. It’s definitely at the bottom of the heap, but always present and seemingly inextricable from the other sounds. It feels as if the bass lines are being produced through a symbiosis of the other instruments rather than by an independent instrument, which really glues the whole sonic package together.
In terms of consistency, Endinghent happily trumps Nihl, and if you were a fan of Altarage‘s debut, this will no doubt appeal to your scorched palate. Endinghent doesn’t overplay its hand, weaving enough interest to feel sufficiently opaque and to distance itself from your average overdistorted black/death hate letter. It’s not a daily listening companion, but an album worth keeping around for its sheer commitment to an aesthetic and its success in pulling it off.