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Altar and Cartilage - 90%

dismember_marcin, April 14th, 2012

Nowadays this split LP can be considered as a true classic of old school death metal, but one which is rare and very hard to find. But its musical content says everything about it – we deal here with two great traditional death metal bands. First is the Swedish Altar, who slaughters the listener with five new tracks (plus two of the demo on a CD version). The band performs classic death metal, which takes much of the credit from some British bands (early Paradie Lost), but I have an impression some of these riffs are slightly more melodic when comparing them to the demo, and thus this way Altar has more similarities to bands like early Amorphis, Excruciate and Dismember (just listen to “Lifeless Passion” – this is traditional Swedish death metal song!). But the opening song “Nothing Human” is just fast neck-breaker, with really uncompromising opening part. Surprisingly the slower motif has some keyboard parts, which give quite a horror / creepy result. “Lifeless Passion” and “A Message From the Grave” are infectiously melodic, with those “The Karelian Isthmus” like riffs that stick in your head instantly, but the second of these songs is much faster than rest of “Ex Oblivione”, while the first of these two reminds me also some old Polish bands like Hazael, Armagedon and Betrayer. I’m surprised to hear the short piano part in the mid part of this track, but from the other hand it fits it well.

The opening motif of “Decapitated” also has piano – and it sounds awesome when it accompanies the heavy slow riff. It re-appears also in some other great slow patterns, just for a while, but it’s enough to show that Altar really had some great and unusual ideas. It all sounds great within this classic death / thrash skeleton. You know, it’s not something particularly original, there were many other bands, which have been using something like that on their albums and demos, but Altar has done it in a great way and have many killer riffs. Their material has a high quality, and such song as “Ex Oblivione” only confirms it. This is really fast and aggressive as hell track, with some stabbing riffs and cool vocals. At the end (on CD only) Altar also serves us two demo tracks (and we can notice a development in Altar’s style – for little less brutal and surely much faster and more melodious), so yeah – definitely their part of the split is worth to listen to.

And what about Cartilage… Well, before I got a chance to listen to their part of the split I didn’t know much about the band. But I also enjoyed their songs. Their style is a bit different. To some point, they carry the tradition of many other early Finnish bands like Purtenance, Abhorrence or Adramelech. Their death metal is massive, brutal, often slow but mostly mid paced, but they do have also plenty of faster motives and sometimes even some more melodic riffs. This is a style, which also reminds me the American legends called Baphomet. So, definitely great stuff! Cartilage also managed to put some surprising stuff in their music though, like the wonderfully epic opening for “Afterlife Sorrow” for instance with the keyboards accompanying the slow majestic riff. “Blessing In Depth” is another different song, basically instrumental, very slow and epic, with keyboards all over it, so the final result is really dark and majestic. But all in all Cartilage performs pretty standard death metal. And I do enjoy it quite a lot… But from both I would rather pick Altar as the better band. Definitely though this is one of my favourite split albums ever, truly a cult stuff, pity then it is so damn expensive!