When bands claim to make music for no-one but themselves, one’s inclined to disbelieve them. Balls, I reckon.
There remains in everyone who ever trod a stage a instinctive need for at least some sort of validation.
Yet of all the bands to have uttered this time old remark, I believe Altar of Plagues more than the others. Certainly when playing live, they dont even appear to be there physically – they’re like vessels on stage, conduits for the music.
More so than any of their previous albums, that feeling of distance and remove has reached its most deliberate on here.
At nineteen minutes in length, the massive opener ‘Nepture Is Dead’
asks much from the listener. Though its initial surge is both metallicaly reassuring and satisfyingly intense, it gives way to an expansive, diluted remainder that’s greatly pared down from what they’ve done before.
In total honesty, I remain unsure about whether the riffs in this track deserve the whopping commitment of time they’re given. I’m unsure about what Altar of Plagues feel they’re communicating in them that couldn’t have been done sooner.
On the other side of the coin, the track reflects the kinds of (presumed) influences that are now being given full weight within the band’s palette. Fans of Godspeed You Black Emperor and their offshoots Silver Mount Zion will recognise immediately these parched soundscapes.
The rather more familiar scorch of Altar Òf Plagues’ anger belts out of ‘Feather And Bone’. It’s the best of these tracks, summoning massive weight in the double bass drumming, ultra caustic vocals and scintillating speed by the finish. It’s the track that reminds you of the guts that got them here in the first place.
I wish there was more of it. I realise they’ve moved on a bit – and rightly so – but this is incredible. It’s so fierce that in the last seconds one can only think of Mayhem’s ‘Fall Of Seraphs’.
The next two tracks seem as companion pieces. The first is an atmospheric sampling of an old woman singing in a dialect that’s not immediately recognisable, while the second reintroduces itself with speeding intensity.
Yet again, that intensity gives way to watery, post rock digressions. It seems profoundly non-committal. With other albums, other bands, I’d criticise this. I’d say it shows lack of agenda, lack of better options.
Not with this one though. This is the sound of a band stepping almost so far back from front that they become almost faceless. That’s a definite choice, and it’s a coarse one.
Listen to this album and see if you cant detect that yourself. For all the power of ‘Feather and Bone’, the remainder is a coldly distanced, emtionally unclear record that in its disapproval of any kind of bond with the listener probably makes a better point about misanthropy than a million depressive BM loners ever did.
4.1 /5 – Earl Grey ::: 10/04/11